A man was killed in one of two accidents that brought eastbound traffic on Interstate 78 to a standstill for hours Friday morning, police said.
The first accident happened around 6:30 a.m. Friday near the Krumsville interchange in Greenwich Twp., Berks Co.
The second accident happened shortly after 9:30 a.m. in the eastbound lanes in Windsor Township, about seven miles west from the scene of the first accident.
A tractor trailer and a pickup truck were involved in the first accident, state police said.
The pickup truck's driver, Austin T Zalik, was parked on a grassy area at the Shell gas station on Route 737, adjacent to the Interstate 78 overpass, when his truck moved forward down an embankment and onto I-78, where it was struck by the tractor trailer, the coroner said.
Zalik, 21, of Lehigh County, was killed, said the coroner, who believes he may have fallen asleep and bumped the gear.
Zalik was a Parkland High School graduate and a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., the coroner said.
Zalik competed at the Parkettes National Training Center in Allentown, earning first-team academic all-America honors between 2006 and 2009 and helping the team win four-straight state titles, according to his biography on the U.S. Naval Academy Athletics website.
The Parkettes issued a statement on its Facebook page Friday: "Austin Zalik -- an amazing young man with so much ahead. Why do these things happen? Our entire Parkettes family is sick over this news. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
No one else was injured in the first crash, officials said.
I-78 East was closed between the Krumsville and Lenhartsville interchanges for about three hours until authorities managed to open one lane around 9:30 a.m. The second lane was opened around 11 a.m.
"I seen where some people were on the interstate, and they were outside their cars. They had to be there at least an hour," said Mike Winkfield, who was driving on the interstate from West Virginia.
"We got off on the detour on the side roads and were stuck there for quite some time," said Jodi McConnell, who was taking her family to the Crayola Factory in Easton.
A tractor trailer and a box truck were involved in the second accident, which was the result of the backup and slowed eastbound traffic even more.
Initial reports from the scene were that at least one person was taken to a hospital by ambulance.
Many motorists found themselves stranded on the highway for hours until traffic began inching forward enough for them to either get off the highway or get by the scene of the fatal accident.
Some motorists were left stranded until all lanes reopened.
"We're headed to Boston, so this turned out to be the long way after all," said David Evenson, whose first plan was to take the N.J. Turnpike.
"My doctor's appointment got canceled, and my car overheated for sitting over three hours on 78," said Schaleen Weingart, from Pottsville. "I'm a little shaky. I'm a little tired, a little wired. I'm ready to go home."
PennDOT urged motorists to use its green detour, which begins at I-78 East Exit 35, turns right onto Route 143 South and left onto Old Route 22, which was also reported to be slow-going for motorists. The detour then turns right onto Route 737 and left back onto I-78 East.