MANCHAC, La. – Extreme weather reduced visibility on a major interstate in Louisiana, resulting in a massive pileup resembling a "war zone," according to crash witnesses.
A combination of wildfire smoke and dense fog – known as super fog – reduced visibility to near zero on Interstate 55 near Manchac, causing tractor-trailers and dozens of vehicles to crash, creating an 11-mile backup. At least two people were killed, and many others injured, according to St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office.
Lance Scott, of Mandeville, was driving his daughter to the airport on southbound I-55 when he looked down and saw red on his GPS. Traveling at about 65 mph, he immediately hit the brakes, and it was just in time.
He described hearing vehicles ahead and behind him crashing one after another.
"Probably two or 3 seconds after we came to a stop, you just heard ‘boom, boom, boom, boom’ collision after collision behind us," Scott said. "As far as you can see, it’s just crumbled."
After waiting to ensure it was safe, Scott and his daughter exited the car to see the massive pileup. Scott estimated between 75 and 100 vehicles were involved in collisions.
- Image 1 of 6
- Image 2 of 6
- Image 3 of 6
- Image 4 of 6
- Image 5 of 6
- Image 6 of 6
"I've never been in a war zone, but I would imagine this is probably what it looks like. Cars were on fire. You can hear the tires popping. And, you know, it was unlike anything I've ever seen before," Scott said.
Video taken by Scott after the crash shows vehicles on top of each other, motor oil spilled throughout the crashes and pieces of trucks and cars littering the ground.
Scott said good Samaritans immediately started helping injured people after the crash, including his daughter, an ICU nurse.
"She hopped out, and she was helping people for about 2 hours," he said. "Just right place, right time, where she can help some people. Unfortunately, there are going to be some people that, as you reported, are not going to walk away from that."
The pileup happened on an elevated freeway, making it even more difficult for paramedics and firefighters to get to the crash site. Scott said first responders set up a triage site in the northbound lanes of I-55, and some people were being transported via gurneys over the highway railing to reach ambulances.
Firefighters have been dousing vehicles on fire with water to put out the blazes. Several 18-wheelers collided with three catching fire, according to the sheriff's office. The smoke from the vehicle fires added to the wildfire smoke and fog, which created poor visibility, causing the deadly crash.
"There were several vehicles on fire … they wanted to keep the fire from engulfing the whole pile up," Scott said, adding the smell in the area is like "a lot of burnt rubber."
It will be a complicated cleanup process after the crash due to the elevated portion of the highway over the marsh.