More than two dozen vehicles were caught in a Tuesday morning pileup on Interstate 95 in Carmel, the result of a chain reaction of crashes caused by blinding sunlight.
The first crash happened at about 7:45 a.m. near mile marker 174 of I-95’s northbound lanes before several other vehicles collided, according to Maine State Police.Thirty vehicles were involved in the initial round of crashes, and 10 others crashed as traffic came to a halt on the highway, according to Maine State Police Lt. Roderick Charette.
Initial reports suggested between 20 and 60 vehicles were involved in the crash.
The interstate’s northbound lanes were temporarily closed near the crash site but reopened at about 11:15 a.m., according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Eleven patients were taken from the crash site to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, but none of their injuries were considered life-threatening, according to Dr. James Jarvis, the hospital’s senior vice president and senior physician executive. A LifeFlight helicopter flew one patient to the hospital, according to state police.
Many of the patients had minor injuries such as scrapes and bruises, and some were released from the hospital within hours, but one patient had more serious injuries that included a bone fracture, Jarvis said. None of the patients required surgery.
“When we initially heard the numbers of cars that were involved, and we had some people on site who shared photographs with us, we were concerned we would have more casualties and more severe injuries,” Jarvis said. “Thankfully, that was not the case. I think some of that is a credit to the first responders who got there almost immediately and took control of the situation.”
Multiple wreckers were dispatched to assist state troopers at the scene.
Maine Department of Transportation maintenance crews had treated that section of road Tuesday morning, department spokesman Paul Merrill said.
“The conditions were bare and wet at the time of the crash,” he said.
Tuesday’s pileup was the second to happen on the same stretch of the interstate’s northbound lanes in five years. In February 2015, a pileup between Newport and Bangor involved 102 vehicles and injured 32 people. That chain-reaction crash, which happened near mile marker 173, was believed to be the largest pileup to ever happen on a Maine road. Speed, cars following too closely, the weather conditions and limited visibility contributed to that crash.
Megan Knowles, a Canaan resident who owns Erv’s Barber Shop in Bangor, said that she saw what appeared to be the early stages of the crash as she drove through Carmel around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, where the northbound lanes face almost due east.
As Knowles approached the Newburgh town line, she emerged from a shady area and suddenly had trouble seeing the road because the sun started shining directly through her windshield, which was covered in dirt and which she couldn’t clean because her wiper fluid had frozen.
Shortly before Knowles exited onto Route 69 at mile marker 174, in Newburgh, she saw two cars collide into each other in the left lane, then she had to swerve into the right-hand shoulder to avoid a third car that had spun around and was taking up both lanes.
From there, Knowles saw in her rearview mirror that more cars appeared to collide into each other, but she quickly left the interstate for her own safety. The roads were not slippery, but Knowles thought that the poor visibility was probably an issue for the other drivers, in part because she saw some of them hit the brakes when they entered the sunlight.
“It was so scary,” she said. “As soon as I got past [the car in the middle of the interstate], I saw some people behind me crash. I got off the interstate right away because I was so shaken up and I had to clean my windshield because I couldn’t see anything.”
Barbara Mower, a BDN employee who lives in Saint Albans, had just entered I-95 north in Newport around 8 a.m. Tuesday when she started seeing emergency vehicles speeding up the highway.
About 10 minutes later, traffic came to a halt south of mile marker 174, according to Mower.
“I came to a sudden stop right outside the Carmel area,” she said at about 9 a.m. “I’m past the Etna area. It’s backed up pretty far.”
Mower — who was also caught in the 2015 pileup along that section of interstate — was stopped near the top of a hill and could not see how far the traffic stretched or any crashes that had caused it. Cars were gridlocked in the right lane while state troopers, ambulances, firefighters and tow trucks drove past in the left lane, according to Mower.
BDN writers Eesha Pendharkar and Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report.