MOUNT PLEASANT TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Five people are dead and around 60 injured following a horrific crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Two of the five dead were UPS drivers. Daniel Kepner, 53, had worked five years at the company and 48-year-old Dennis Kehler had worked 28 years.
“Both were driving together in a tractor trailer vehicle out of our Harrisburg, Pennsylvania operating center. Our drivers will be missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families,” UPS said in a public statement. “This is all of the information available at this time.”
The identities of the other three victims were released around 10 p.m. Sunday.
The 58-year-old bus driver Shuang Qing Feng of Flushing New York and bus passengers 35-year-old Eilleen Zelis Aria from the Bronx and 9-year-old girl Jaremy Vazquez from Brooklyn were killed.
Crews could be seen towing a UPS truck and a passenger vehicle from the scene that killed five and injured five dozen around 3:40 a.m. Sunday morning.
NEW: Crews are making progress with the cleanup effort on the turnpike. Here’s a video of a UPS truck and a passenger vehicle being towed from the scene. pic.twitter.com/OWGegr16Vp
— Shelby Cassesse (@ShelbyCassesse) January 5, 2020
Police say the bus, with Z & D Tour Inc., was not able to get around a turn, went up an embankment and flipped. Then two tractor trailers hit the bus before a third hit in what state police called a “chain reaction-type crash.”
The bus was heading from Chinatown in New York City to Cincinnati.
One of the passengers on the bus, 11-year-old Giorgi Koberidze described the scene to Chris Hoffman in a phone interview: “All of a sudden I heard a crash, and everybody started screaming. Then I heard two more.”
Once he got off the bus, he called emergency crews and tried to calm down fellow passengers.
First responders rushed to the scene to treat the nearly 60 people injured in the crash. Five were pronounced dead on the scene.
Eleven patients are being treated at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville. Two are in critical condition, five have been discharged and the rest are in fair condition, according to a spokesperson for Allegheny Health Network.
Thirty-one victims ranging in age from 7 to 52 years old are being treated at Excela Hospital in Mt. Pleasant. Nine victims are under the age of 18. So far, 27 patients were treated and released in stable conditions. The hospital says one of its patients was transferred to UPMC Children’s and three of its patients transferred to UPMC Presbyterian.
UPMC has received 22 patients related to the Pennsylvania Turnpike accident. 18 patients at UPMC Somerset were treated and released. Three patients are in treatment at UPMC Presbyterian and one child is being cared for at UPMC Children’s.
— UPMC (@UPMCnews) January 5, 2020
Eighteen patients are in UPMC Somerset. UPMC says all of those patients — 12 adults and six children — have been released. UPMC Presbyterian is treating three patients and one child is being treated at UPMC Children’s.
On Monday, four patients — three adults and one child — are still at UPMC. At Allegheny Health Network, five patients are still at Forbes Hospital. Two of them are in critical condition, the other three are in fair condition.
According to state police, some of the victims are from other countries and don’t speak English. They say some of the languages include Spanish and Japanese.
Trooper Limani says the Red Cross is working with the “different problems that come into play” like finding housing, reconnecting loved ones and accommodating other travelers who were with those in the hospital.
While the majority of the people involved are from different countries, he says that state police and the county have resources to “bridge the gap” and help with translations.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is beginning to look into the cause and held a press conference at 8 p.m.
“It can take anywhere between 12 and 24 months for the NTSB to get to the stage of a final report where we have findings our probable cause and our recommendation,” NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said. “Our role on scene is to document the crash site, document the vehicles involved in the crash and then collect the perishable evidence.”
Trooper Limani says some people told him the weather had started to change before the crash, but it’s too early in the investigation to tell if weather was a cause.
A detour was in place for all eastbound and westbound Turnpike traffic between Breezewood and New Stanton. Both detours have since been lifted.
Motorists heading east are being urged to use Route 119 south US 40 east to Interstate 68 east (at Cumberland, Maryland) to I-70 west and re-enter the Turnpike at the Breezewood Interchange exit 161.
Westbound motorists are urged to use Route 30 west to Interstate 99 north to US Route 22 west to Route 66 south and re-enter the Turnpike at Exit# 75 New Stanton.
WB Detour at Breezewood: I-70 east (Washington, DC) (24 miles) to exit 1A (68/40 West, Cumberland, Maryland) (65.5 miles) to Exit 14B (Uniontown) following 40 west to US 119 north (63 miles) to Exit 1B (PA Turnpike). Re-enter the PA Turnpike @New Stanton. #paturnpike @PA_Turnpike https://t.co/kn3qMrtgAv
— PA Turnpike Alerts (@PATurnpikeAlert) January 5, 2020
One of the tractor trailers was a FedEx truck. A spokesperson for FedEx said in a statement: “First and foremost we extend our deepest condolences to the families of the individuals involved in this accident. There is no higher priority for FedEx Ground than safety, and we are cooperating fully with investigating authorities at this time.”
Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman also expressed their condolences on Twitter.
Saddened to learn of the fatal pileup crash on the @PA_Turnpike this morning. Keeping victims and their families in my prayers.
Efforts by @PAStatePolice and responders prevented further loss of life.
Drivers: Follow @PATurnpikeAlert for detour and closing updates. Be safe.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) January 5, 2020
Gisele and I both share the Governor’s sorrow over this tragic accident and extend our family’s deepest sympathies to those touched by this tragedy. 💔 https://t.co/BJl9g70yYx
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) January 5, 2020
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.