Whiteout on I-78: Truck barrels through stopped traffic

12-mile stretch of I-78 West closed nearly 4 hours

TILDEN TWP., Pa. - Whiteout conditions on a snowy stretch of Interstate 78 triggered a six-vehicle accident that closed a 12-mile stretch of the westbound lanes in Berks County.

The accident was initially reported to Pennsylvania State Police shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday as a jackknifed tractor trailer in the area of milepost 27.5 in Tilden Township, west of Hamburg.

PSP troopers said they arrived on the scene to find that traffic had stopped for the whiteout conditions, but a flatbed tractor trailer could not stop.

"He actually split both lanes, so as he’s going up, [he's] hitting vehicles," said PSP Trooper David Beohm, public information officer for Reading-based Troop L. "He hit a [Honda] CRV and knocked it onto its roof. He hit two tractor trailers on the left, one on the right."

The flatbed tractor trailer finally came to rest after hitting the rear of another trailer in the right lane, police said.

"We heard all the sirens, and I have a four-wheel truck, so we figured we come investigate," said Dustin Nerger, who lives nearby. "We got down here and saw the carnage of the wreck."

Three people suffered what troopers said are believed to be minor injuries.

"Nothing is life-threatening... which is fortunate," Beohm said.

Five of the six vehicles involved in the accident had to be towed from the scene before the highway could be reopened around 2:30 p.m.

In the meantime, westbound motorists were diverted off the highway at the Lenhartsville interchange (Exit 35) and onto Old Route 22 West through Hamburg, according to the borough's police chief, Pedro Rivera.

"Because it parallels, it's pretty much a straight route," Rivera told 69 News. "It's not unusual to have tractor traffic coming through."

Once through the borough, drivers were directed to continue west on Old 22 to Mountain Road, where they could return to I-78 West at the Shartlesville interchange (Exit 23) in Upper Bern Township.

The eastbound lanes of I-78 remained open.

The accident, Beohm said, should serve as a reminder for drivers.

"When you're out on the interstate, you're kind of stuck," he said. "If you have to stop, leave plenty of room in front of you... I would say always be looking in your mirrors, your rearview mirrors, for things coming up behind you... always try to keep a little escape space for you, where you can steer to the right, if there's a shoulder."

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