Officials said the crash occurred at around 3:30 a.m. local time near Mount Pleasant Township, which is southeast of Pittsburgh.
“Crash involves 2 tractor trailers, a tour bus and passenger vehicles. Turnpike is closed in both directions from New Stanton (#75) to Breezewood (#161). A prolonged closure likely,” Pennsylvania Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo wrote on Twitter.
DeFebo, in a later statement, confirmed that five were dead and “about 60 patients” were taken to three nearby hospitals.
About 60 patients have been transported to three area hospitals in Westmoreland County due to multi-vehicle crash on @PA_Turnpike at milepost 86 westbound. Coroner has confirmed five fatalities. An 86-mile stretch of Turnpike still closed from New Stanton to Breezewood exits.
— Carl DeFebo (@cdefebo) January 5, 2020
A 60-mile stretch between the New Stanton and Breezewood exits was closed, he said. The Turnpike completely reopened around 6:20 p.m local time.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators were called to the scene, DeFebo told the Tribune-Review.
County coroner Ken Bacha also told CNN that five people were found dead at the scene. At least 11 people were transported to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, according to the report.
A spokesperson for the hospital said at least one victim was in critical condition, while 10 others were in fair condition. The ages of the patients are unknown.
Other details about the crash were not clear, including the cause.
The National Weather Service said the air temperature was just below freezing in Westmoreland County, with cloudy skies.
Traffic Deaths Down Across US
U.S. traffic deaths fell 3 percent in the first six months of 2019, according to preliminary National Safety Council figures.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 2017 traffic deaths fell by 1.8 percent to 37,133 after traffic deaths rose sharply in the previous two years, according to final figures. The U.S. traffic fatality rate fell to 1.08 deaths per 100 million miles traveled for the first half of 2018.
The fatality rate in 2017 was 1.16 million deaths per 100 million miles traveled—the second highest rate since 2008. “This is good news and bad news,” said Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council, CNBC reported. “The total number of fatalities is not getting worse, but the situation is not getting better.”
Hersman cited distracted driving and higher speed limits for the number.
“There are a number of states that have raised speed limits, some now have stretches at 80 or 85 miles per hour,” she said in the CNBC report.
In Texas, for example, she estimated that traffic fatalities jumped 7 percent from 2015 to 2017, in part due to higher speed limits in the state.
“We know it’s happening, even though distracted driving data is hard to come by,” she said of drivers using smartphones while behind the wheel.
“Police reports on accidents often don’t report if the driver was distracted, and in many accidents, people don’t self-report themselves.”