PITTSBURGH - Crews cleared wrecked and stranded vehicles from a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in western Pennsylvania on Sunday, which reopened a day after sudden whiteout conditions led to chain-reaction crashes involving 50 to 70 vehicles. Three people were killed.
They were identified Sunday as Michael Maluk, 70, of Greenville and a married couple, Robert and Rita Duffy of the Pittsburgh suburb of West View, according to Venango County Deputy Coroner Chris Hile.
Maluk and the Duffys, who were in their 50s, were in cars that slid or skidded out of control before each was hit by a larger commercial truck. The truck that hit the Duffys came to rest on their vehicle, Hile said. Robert Duffy was an assistant middle school principal at a school in the Franklin Regional School District near Pittsburgh.
The crashes began about 2:20 p.m. Saturday on a stretch of the highway primarily between the Barkeyville and Clintonville exits, about 55 miles north of Pittsburgh and just a few miles east of Interstate 79, western Pennsylvania's main north-south highway.
Only 3 to 4 inches of snow had fallen in the area since Friday night, but much of it fell suddenly when winds of up to 35 mph whipped lake-effect snows through the area Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said. The interstate is known for rapidly changing conditions when winter weather blows through, Hile said.
"I've been here for 30 years, we get these sudden snow squalls across the I-80 corridor, and driving conditions can change in a matter of minutes, sometimes in a matter of seconds," Hile said. "I always say it's not a problem - until somebody has to stop suddenly."
Interstate 80 was closed until early Sunday morning when the eastbound lanes reopened. The westbound lanes, where most of the crashes occurred, reopened about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
A separate pileup on Interstate 79 involving 30 passenger vehicles and two commercial trucks began about noon Saturday just a few miles north of I-80. No serious injuries or deaths were reported and the highway reopened about three hours later after 15 tow trucks and a school bus were used to cart away stranded motorists.