FINZEL — Several people reportedly suffered minor injuries Thursday evening in a 12-vehicle crash on westbound Interstate 68 that officials blamed on icy road conditions.
The crash occurred around 6:30 p.m. at about the same time that an eastbound tractor-trailer jackknifed at the 23-mile marker, according to officials from the Eastern Garrett and Shaft volunteer fire departments.
“The initial alert indicated there were 30 vehicles involved in the pileup but there were actually 10 to 12 vehicles,” said Shaft volunteer firefighter Roger Bennett.
Eastern Garrett Deputy Chief Justin Clark and fellow firefighters were dispatched to the truck wreck and found Grantsville volunteer firefighters already on the scene.
“The rig was in the ditch and taking up all three lanes but drivers kept squeezing by and didn’t even slow down,” Clark said.
“It was nothing but a solid sheet of ice,” said Clark of the road conditions prior to the arrival of State Highway Administration trucks that treated the roadways.
There were three or four separate crashes that occurred along westbound I-68 in a several hundred yard stretch of the highway, officials said.
Bennett said the wrecks created a three-mile backup in the westbound lanes back to the 32-mile marker. At least seven vehicles were towed in the crashes that resulted in an hour-and-a-half shutdown of the westbound lanes and a brief shutdown of the eastbound lanes.
“It happened so quick,” said Bennett, who is also the deputy director of the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services. “When we left the station it was all ice on Shaft Road and snow on Midlothian Road. But state highway did a good job responding.”
At least two people were transported to UPMC Western Maryland for treatment of minor injuries, officials said.
Clark said Thursday’s winter conditions may persist.
“It’s not over yet. There’s still a chance of a significant storm in April, a robin’s snow,” he said. “I’ve seen a couple of them over the years.”
“We were talking about this whole thing being a bad version of an April Fools’ joke,” Bennett said.
In addition to Eastern Garrett and Shaft, fire units from Frostburg, Salisbury, Grantsville and Bittinger responded along with ambulances from Northern Garrett Rescue and the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services.