One person was killed and about a dozen injured when about 75 vehicles crashed during snow squalls on the New York State Thruway east of Buffalo, officials said.
The massive pileup on Tuesday afternoon led troopers to block all lanes between Exit 50 and Exit 48A for hours during the evening rush.
Lancaster Emergency Management said at least 75 vehicles were involved, according to WIVB.
State Trooper Michael Cassella in Albany said 15 to 25 cars and 10 tractor-trailers were directly involved in a series of collisions, and that blustery weather was a contributing factor.
Motorist Cory Zapier was heading home from Rochester after work when he got tangled up in the messy crash.
“You couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of you,” he told WHAM. “It was blistery cold.
He said he had no choice but to crash into the back of a tractor-trailer.
“It was either a car on this side or that side, so I chose the semi,” he said.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said seven volunteer fire departments were at the scene and hundreds of cars were backed up, with travelers being stuck for hours.
Lancaster police used school buses to pick up stranded motorists and take them to shelter at a hotel.
“Passing on the bus and seeing how severe it was, that’s what scared me,” said Tammy Dawn, who was driving with her grandson.
Another traveler, Kevin Gurusaran, was driving back to the city after a road trip to Toronto with his girlfriend.
He told The Buffalo News he saw the pileup in front of their car and hit the brakes, but was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer.
Then, other cars began crashing into him until he finally headed for a ditch to avoid any more hits.
“When it was all said and done, there were miles and miles of crashed cars behind us,” he said. “Literally, snow was coming sideways. It was clear that, all of a sudden … there was a chain reaction going all the way down.”
Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Chief Thomas Trzepacz and his department were the first to respond.
He said first responders worked in “zero visibility conditions” to extricate injured people from their cars.
“I’ve been dealing with crashes on the Thruway for 20 years, including critical ones, but I have never seen this many vehicles under these conditions,” said Trzepacz. “We’re always training for something like this and we did the best we could under the conditions.”