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Maryland's I-68 re-opens after huge pileup

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Rescue personnel inspect wrecked cars after a multi-vehicle accident in western Maryland.

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FINZEL, Maryland (CNN) -- Maryland State Police reopened Interstate 68 early Saturday afternoon 24 hours after a string of fog-induced, chain-reaction pileups jammed the road, killing two motorists and injuring nearly 100 others.

State Police Sgt. R. Eilerman said more than 80 vehicles had been removed from the roadway, a main corridor into the Appalachian Mountains from several East Coast cities, and taken to the firehouse in nearby Finzel.

The area is prone to fog, officials said. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an investigator to Maryland to aid in the investigation.

Garrett County Sheriff's Dept. Communications Operator Bill Wiltison told CNN that the first accident occurred around 1:20 p.m. Friday, and the largest, involving about 50 vehicles, began almost an hour later.

"It's the fog," he said. "It's really thick up there."

The fog had not cleared as darkness settled hours later over Big Savage Mountain, hampering efforts to clear the accident sites.

Wrecked vehicles line Interstate 68 in western Maryland.
Wrecked vehicles line Interstate 68 in western Maryland.

A 17-mile stretch of the highway was closed in both directions, forcing Memorial Day holiday travelers to detour on their way to mountain destinations.

"Everyone's headed here for the weekend," Wiltison said. "It's the getaway place for people in Baltimore and Philadelphia."

Eilerman said the highway was cleared of cars and debris shortly after noon and the eastbound lanes were reopened. The westbound lanes were reopened about an hour later.

One of the fatalities occurred when a man got out of his car and was hit by another vehicle, police said. The other was a passenger in a car.

Six people were admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital and Memorial Hospital in Cumberland, Maryland, on Friday and all six remain hospitalized, according to a spokeswoman for Western Maryland Health System, which runs the two hospitals. About 15 others were treated and released; dozens more required no treatment.

One victim in critical condition was transferred to the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, more than 100 miles away.


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