December 11, 2023

By Kevin McGill and Sara Cline | Related Press

NEW ORLEANS — Crews labored into Tuesday morning clearing the wreckage of greater than 150 automobiles concerned in a collection of crashes the day earlier than on Interstate 55 close to New Orleans brought on by a “superfog” of marsh hearth smoke and dense fog that killed at the least seven folks and injured one other 25.

Lance Scott was among the many many drivers caught within the wreckage. The 51-year-old had been driving his daughter to the airport when the fog thickened, as if a “white-out on a ski slope.” He slammed on his brakes, narrowly, avoiding the vehicles in entrance of him — however from behind he heard “probably the most horrendous clank of steel.”

“It was, ‘Bang. Bang. Bang.’ It simply went on… for in all probability 45 seconds,” Scott stated. “As each second glided by the clanking of the steel received slightly bit fainter, which informed me it was backing up — so I knew there was layers and layers of collisions.”

Scott turned to his 24-year-old daughter, an intensive care unit nurse, and stated to her, “There’s going to be lots of people who need assistance and I want you to exit and do what you do.”

With the ominous sounds of crackling hearth within the background and the fog slowly lifting to disclose the extent of the crash, Scott and his daughter helped folks out of their vehicles, a few of whom noticeably had damaged collarbones and one needed to watch for first responders to carry the Jaws of Life.

An estimated 158 automobiles had been concerned in Monday morning’s crashes, in response to the Louisiana State Police, who warned Monday evening the loss of life toll may climb as first responders appeared for victims, the odor of burnt wreckage nonetheless heavy within the air.

The crashes started earlier than 9 a.m. Monday alongside a one-mile span of the elevated interstate, which passes over swamp and open water between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, Louisiana State Police Sgt. Kate Stegall stated in a information briefing. Components of the freeway reopened Tuesday afternoon.

The crashes left an extended stretch of mangled and scorched vehicles, vans and tractor-trailers. Automobiles had been crushed, piled atop one another and engulfed by flames. Some folks received out of their automobiles and stood on the aspect of the street or on the roofs of their vehicles wanting in disbelief on the catastrophe, whereas others cried out for assist.

Scott stated there was “nice camaraderie” as folks sprang into motion to assist others. With drivers warning others a few close by hearth from the crash, folks moved away from the wreckage as they waited for 45 minutes for paramedics to succeed in them and for transportation off the bridge.

Clarencia Patterson Reed, 46, was driving to Manchac together with her spouse and niece and noticed folks waving for her to cease, however as soon as she stopped, two different automobiles hit her automotive from behind and the aspect, she informed The Related Press. Patterson Reed escaped from her aspect of the automotive, however her spouse was pinned inside with an injured leg and aspect. Others stepped in to assist, she stated.

“I simply thank God,” she stated. “There was a casualty a couple of vehicles forward of us.”

One other driver Christopher Coll, stated he was already braking when a pickup truck “drove up on high of my work trailer and took me for a journey.”

Coll may odor smoke as he heard the sounds of crashing vehicles and popping tires. He was capable of kick open his passenger door to flee after which helped others — pulling out one individual by a automotive window.

College buses had been summoned to move stranded motorists from the accident websites. Moreover, at the least 25 folks had been dropped at the hospital, with accidents starting from minor to important, others sought medical help on their very own, authorities stated.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards requested for prayers “for these harm and killed” Monday and issued a name for blood donors to replenish dwindling provides.

Monday afternoon, state troopers had been nonetheless working “to inform households, examine the precise causes of the crashes,” Louisiana State Police stated.

By Tuesday morning, crews had been eradicating the ultimate group of automobiles and commenced a floor cleanup of the world, authorities stated. State Police had been coordinating with the state’s transportation division to have the bridge inspected.

The Nationwide Climate Service stated there have been a number of wetland fires within the area Monday and smoke from the fires combined with fog to create a “superfog.”

Hazardous driving circumstances Tuesday morning prompted a number of faculties within the space to shut or delay, as tow vans continued to haul particles off of the interstate.

Related Press photographer Gerald Herbert and author Beatrice Dupuy contributed to this report. McGill reported from New Orleans and Cline from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.