At least 7 dead, more than 25 injured in massive I-55 pile-up
MANCHAC, La. (WVUE) - Multiple crashes on Interstate 55, both north and southbound, have prompted closures in both directions between Ruddock and Manchac, according to state police and St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre.
Louisiana State Police said in a Monday night press conference that seven people were confirmed dead, and that number could climb as first responders continue to work their way through a mile-long stretch of wreckage involving 158 vehicles.
One stretch of the wreckage has not been accessible to authorities, and won’t be until hazardous material is fully offloaded from a tanker truck involved in the crash. That effort was continuing and State Police said that both directions of I-55 would remain closed overnight.
A “Superfog” mix of dense fog and smoke from marsh fires on the South Shore created hazardous road conditions Monday (Oct. 23) morning. Fox 8 Chief Meteorologist Bruce Katz says the area will be under another dense fog advisory Monday night into the Tuesday morning commute and conditions could be just as treacherous.
Sheriff Tregre says there were a total of 25 crashes in three different spots along I-55 north and south. Three 18-wheelers were involved and at least two were fully engulfed in flames.
“The tractor that pulls the tank is damaged, so they’re gonna have to offload the chemical from that one to a backup tanker which they’ll have to bring to the site,” said Dept. of Environmental Quality Press Secretary Greg Langley.
Dozens of cars were mangled and one was sent over the railing into Lake Maurepas below. State police say the occupants survived.
“I’ve never seen a crash like this. I mean I’ve traveled south Louisiana for quite some time and I’ve seen fog, but the pocket of fog we saw coming over the Manchac bridge... it was like something you’d see in the Central Valley of California. It was total fog. Couldn’t see in front of you,” said driver Lance Scott.
Tregre said at least 30 motorists were injured. State Police on Monday night put that figure at 25, but asked for anyone involved and injured in the pileup to contact the LSP so that all injured drivers and passengers could be fully accounted for. Anyone missing a family member who was traveling through the area this morning should contact Troop B at (504) 471-2775.
Further, if you were involved in the crash or were a witness, please contact Troop B at TroopB@LA.gov and provide Troopers with your contact information.
North Oaks Medical Center says it took on 21 patients from the crash. Five of those patients required trauma level activation; three of whom are in critical condition, one in serious condition, and one in fair condition.
“It was very scary because everybody had run out of their cars. The more you sat there... heard cars hitting everybody,” recalled Kylie Cuevas, who says she was driving from Belle Chasse to Hammond. “There were explosions happening from the 18-wheeler way farther ahead. Kept hearing explosions. Not very good.”
“We stopped to help make sure it was okay. We prayed to make sure everyone was alright,” Josh Garrett said.
Over 100 people were stranded on the interstate and deputies had to run along the roadway to get to the crash sites.
Carly Mosley rushed to the scene to rescue her three-year-old son, Amir, who was traveling with a relative when their vehicle became involved in the crash.
“They were stranded. He’s only three. That’s a lot to go through,” she said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement on the crash, asking Louisianans to, “Please join me and Donna in praying for those hurt and killed in today’s tragic I-55 crash, as well as their families. The combination of wildfire smoke and dense fog is dangerous, and I want to encourage all Louisianans in affected areas to take extreme caution when traveling.
“I also want to thank the first responders and medical personnel who have worked so diligently to save lives and render aid. The best way you can help them, besides exercising caution on the road, is to donate blood at your local blood donation center. It will help replenish supplies that are being drained today to care for the wounded.”
At around 11:40 a.m., state police opened a portion of I-55 to get stranded drivers in drivable vehicles off of the interstate. I-55 will remain closed overnight and into Tuesday. Crews will need to inspect several points along the elevated I-55 for damage and make repairs if necessary.
I-10 headed toward Baton Rouge was closed at the I-310 split until around 3 p.m. The 24-mile-long causeway over Lake Pontchartrain was periodically closed throughout the morning.
The Blood Center is asking for donations in the wake of the crashes.
Several New Orleans schools have announced delayed start times for Tuesday (Oct. 23) because of hazardous driving conditions expected with morning fog and lingering marsh fire smoke.
If drivers do experience heavy fog conditions, please see the following:
- Headlights on - If you can’t see 500 feet in front of you, you should have your low-beam headlights on
- Reduce speed - Speed limits are for ideal conditions, you can be ticketed for driving too fast in heavy fog (not an ideal condition)
- Minimize distractions and increase following distance from other cars
Use the 511 app or visit here for additional roadway conditions.
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