Bus, 3 Semis, 8 Cars Crash;
No Fatalities, But 8 Injured
By LIBBY CUDMORE & JIM KEVLIN • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
SCHENEVUS – Today’s bus, semis and multi-car pileup on I-88’s west bound lanes added up to the worst incident First Assistant Chief Paul Neske of the Schenevus Fire Department has seen on the four-lane in his 40 years as a firefighter.
“This is the stuff we hear about on the national news,” he said this evening at the fire district headquarters on Main Street.
Neske was in church when the first call came in at 11:51 a.m. – a single car had gone off I-88’s westbound lane. He dispatched a fire engine and ambulance, and the team was soon reporting from the scene: A whiteout, “heavy traffic” and “weather conditions deteriorating.”
Meanwhile, the Worcester Emergency Squad had been called to two two-car crashes along the same stretch, according to squad’s chief, Sid Chase, who found “blizzard conditions,” high winds and “no visibility.”
Weather conditions like this can make it a lot harder for road users to keep control of their cars, especially when the ground is full of ice or snow. Some people may even decide to avoid driving altogether and will wait until it is considerably safer to do so. To prevent car accidents like this from happening in these adverse weather conditions, drivers should consider getting their cars serviced by professional mechanics in their area, similar to the ones you can find at Browns Plain Car Service, (click here to find out more). As a result, they will have their tires, brakes, and anything else thoroughly checked before setting out on these treacherous roads. Car accidents can happen in any condition, especially those that cause high winds and reduced visibility.
But the worst was yet to come.
At 12:42, Neske’s team reported a “multiple vehicle incident” from the scene. Soon, he learned, an Adirondack Trailways bus, three semis, and several cars had crashed. “We put our mass casualty incident plan into effect,” he said.
Neske quickly dispatched seven fire departments and eight ambulances to the scene, where the department’s second assistant chief, Shannon Jones, took control, assisted by First Assistant Chief Dave Chase of the Worcester department.
According to State Police Sgt. Tim Pigeon, Oneonta, two cars were headed west on I-88, driving in front of a Trailways bus when whiteout conditions caused one car to lose control. The bus driver swerved to avoid the car, and three tractor trailers, one carrying lumber, plowed into the back of the bus. Eight cars then spun out of control trying to avoid the bus and rigs.
“A crash of this size is unusual for this stretch of I-88,” said Pigeon.
State Police Lt. Dan Larkin, who had taken over leadership of the rescue team by later in the afternoon, cut to the chase: “There were no fatalities,” he said, as the shadow of a smile crossed his face.
By then – 5 p.m. – the scene at mile marker 72 had been secured. The westbound lane had been closed off, with traffic detoured off I-88 at Exit 19, along Route 7, then back onto the highway at Exit 18.
Smoke-like emanations came from one of the semis – a tanker truck – but Larkin said it was from the powder-like material it was carrying; there was no risk of fire. He expected the highway to be reopened by 9 p.m.
The majority of the injuries were relatively minor, including cuts and bruises and broken legs. One man’s jaw was broken, and eight people in all were transported to both Fox and Bassett hospitals. Neske had alerted the Bassett trauma team that trouble was on the way, so they were prepared.
Neske also summoned two Schenevus Central school buses, who tranported 22-25 people from the scene to the school, where six EMTs examined them before releasing them.
Six tow trucks were on the scene to help clear away disable vehicles, and Trailways sent a bus to retrieve stranded passengers. It’s of great importance to get in to contact with a towing company such as Towing Less and others, should you find yourself or someone else in the wreckage, this is to help clear the scene and debris to ensure no one else is left that could potentially need serious medical intervention.
While the scope of the crash was unprecedented here, continuous training has occurred, intended to prepare fire departments and emergency squads for just this kind of occurrence, said Neske. By happy coincidence, the Schenevus, Worcester, East Worcester and Westford departments had just completed training for this kind of happening.
“You just deal with it,” Neske added back in command center, where he was focused on a less onerous task: Making sure the remaining firefighters at the scene were well supplied with hot coffee, water and pizza.
In addition to Worcester, East Worcester, Westford and Schenevus, Milford and Oneonta departments responded, and Otego sent an ambulance. Cooperstown Medical Transport also helped carry the injured from the scene.