Deana Harley

3 Dead, Multiple Injuries in I-78 Crash Involving 64 Vehicles

Officials have identified the three drivers who were killed in a massive pileup involving 64 vehicles that shut down lanes for more than 16 hours on a Pennsylvania highway.

Kenneth Lesko, 50, of Bethpage, New York, Francisca Pear, 54, of Bridgewater, New Jersey and Alfred Dean Kinnick, 57, of Limestone, Tennessee were all killed in Saturday morning's crash on I-78 in Bethel Township. Lesko was driving a Dodge Ram, Pear a Toyota Tacoma and Kinnick a commercial motor vehicle during the accident.

I-78's eastbound lanes reopened about 5 a.m. Sunday. The westbound lanes opened a short time later, restoring the highway near Harrisburg to full service.

SkyForce10 video Sunday morning showed tire tracks in the snow where the massive pileup occurred.

Aside from the three deaths, the chain-reaction crash, which police blamed on a fast-moving snow squall, sent 73 people to 11 area hospitals. Some first responders had to walk more than a mile to get to victims.

State Police said the crash happened shortly before 9:30 a.m. Saturday on both sides of the interstate at mile marker 7.5 in Bethel Township. Sudden wind-driven snow caused the crash, according to State Police.

"It reduced visibility and drifting snow across that roadway," said Trooper Justin Summa. "Multiple people were flown to area hospitals and 46 were transported by ambulance." 

Trooper Summa said several buses of stranded passengers were taken to a warming shelter at a firehouse in the area.

"The snow just started and it was a total whiteout," said Ashley Fisher who was on the highway with her two daughters. "The car in front of us just disappeared."

Fisher was on the eastbound side and able to stop.

"A couple cars slid and hit the shoulder," she said. "Once the snow started to dissipate, we started to see that the westbound side was just a mess."

Ken Morris told NBC10 he and his son Danny were driving to Harrisburg when the snow squall hit. Morris' pickup truck slammed into the back of a semi.

"I hit the brakes and just didn't stop," Morris said.

Danny Morris, 14, said he crawled out of the pickup truck and watched as even more cars crashed around him.

"Snow and there are cars flying in," he said. "We had to basically dodge them."

Police said troopers at the scene requested more ambulances for what were called "numerous injuries." Some people were taken from their disabled vehicles to a bus to keep warm on a day when the high was expected to reach only 15 degrees, but felt even chillier with wind gusts accompanying an arctic blast that made this weekend the year's coldest.

After the pileup, 14 fire departments, seven EMS Units, State Troopers from nine different departments, eight towing companies, the Lebanon County Red Cross, Lebanon County EMA officials and the Lebanon County Coroner's Office responded to the scene.

"With a crash of this magnitude, an outstanding effort from these many agencies made it possible to stabilize the scene, treat the critically-wounded, and rescue affected individuals with the primary focus on preservation of life," a Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson wrote. "All of the aforementioned agencies worked tirelessly and collaboratively to minimize the loss of life and resolve the incident as expeditiously and safely as possible."

A bus carrying the Penn State Lehigh Valley men's basketball team was also involved in the crash. Their chartered bus, which was traveling to a game in New Kensington, Pa., was hit by a tractor trailer. No one on the team was seriously injured and they were transferred to another bus. The students were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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