At least 5 dead, 60 injured in massive Pennsylvania Turnpike pileup

The crash involved a tour bus headed from New Jersey to Ohio, officials said.

January 5, 2020, 6:04 PM

At least five people were killed and 60 were injured early Sunday in a vehicle pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that involved a bus mostly full of foreign tourists headed from New Jersey to Ohio, officials said.

The chain-reaction crash occurred around 3:40 a.m. on the turnpike near New Stanton, about 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, officials said.

Trooper Stephen Limani, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police, confirmed at a news conference the number of deaths and injuries in the pileup.

Emergency crews respond to a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mount Pleasant Township, Jan. 5, 2020.

At the time of the crash, temperatures were just below freezing with fog and intermittent light snow, leading investigators to suspect that weather may have been a factor in the crash, Limani said.

He identified the tour bus involved in the crash as belonging to Z&D Tours in Rockaway, New Jersey. He said the bus was headed from New Jersey to Cincinnati when the horrific crash unfolded.

Limani said the operator of the bus appeared to have lost control, causing the chain-reaction wreck.

"As they were traveling, that bus was headed on a downhill grade and the bus was unable to negotiate a corner," Limani said. "That bus went up an embankment, rolled over and then was subsequently struck by two tractor-trailers."

Limani said a third tractor-trailer and a passenger car plowed into the wreckage.

The pileup closed the turnpike in both directions. Limani said the vehicles involved in the crash were so entangled that officials did not expect to reopen the turnpike until Sunday evening.

At least 36 people, ranging in age 7 to their 60s, were taken to area hospitals for treatment, most going to Forbes Hospital in nearby Monroeville, Pennsylvania, according to Limani. Two of the victims were in critical condition, he said.

He said the majority of the passengers on the bus were foreign tourists. He said it remains unclear what countries the bus passengers are from, but said most spoke either Japanese or Spanish.

Emergency crews respond to a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mount Pleasant Township, Jan. 5, 2020.
George Bady

One of the bus passengers, Lamar Brady of Cincinnati, said the crash happened when the bus driver passed the slower moving FedEx truck that subsequently collided with the bus. He estimated the bus was going about 70 mph when the driver lost control.

"He swerved right, swerved left, clipped the median, and then swerved back into the grass area," Brady told ABC News. "Then we started tumbling maybe about two or three times. When we started tumbling, it was about two to three seconds where it was just like zero-G kind of because everything was just spinning in the air. And then we smacked on the side here. That's when everyone started like screaming and stuff."

Aerial video shot by ABC affiliate station WTAE in Pittsburgh showed the tour bus on its side surrounded by three wrecked tractor-trailers rigs, including a FedEx truck with its trailer split open and packages spilling onto the roadway.

Emergency crews respond to a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mount Pleasant Township, Jan. 5, 2020.
George Bady

Multiple victims were reported trapped in vehicles, including the overturned bus, and had to be rescued, authorities said.

"People were crying, people were bleeding," Brady, who caught the bus when it stopped in New York City where he had spent the holidays vacationing. "This woman had a busted lip. This guy was looking for his brother. And this lady was looking for one of her kids."

Brady blamed the crash on the driver, whose name was not immediately released.

"I’m going to be honest with you, I believe the driver was driving recklessly the entire time honestly," Brady said. "I felt him swerving in and out of lanes. I felt him going, cutting off cars and stuff. I don’t know why he was going so fast. I don’t know why he felt like he had to rush. I felt like he was testing his luck, he was testing our luck, and then his luck ran out and so did five other people."

The discount bus is associated with Ohio Coach, according to the New York Times.

Chen Dan Yu, owner of Z&D Tours, told the New York Times that Ohio Coach sold tickets for his company. Yu told the newspaper that 56 passengers were aboard the bus and were headed to multiple destinations in Ohio.

Emergency crews respond to a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mount Pleasant Township, Jan. 5, 2020.

The pileup comes just two weeks after more than 50 people were injured in a 69-vehicle crash on Interstate 64 near Williamsburg, Virginia. Heavy fog and an ice-slickened highway contributed to the Dec. 22 wreck, officials said.

ABC News' Ahmad Hemingway and Benjamin Stein contributed to this report.