NEW ORLEANS - Nearly 12 hours after the pileup, the twisted wreckage of 40 vehicles was finally cleared across a long stretch of I-10, as investigators tried to piece together what happened.
Traffic was again flowing just after 5 p.m. in both directions near the Michoud exit.
That came after cleanup and EMS crews spent hours treating and transporting injured people, removing cars, pickups and 18-wheelers and cleaning up debris and leaked fluids.
Two people died, two were reported to be seriously injured and nearly two dozen had injuries that required trips to the hospital. Another three dozen or so were treated on the scene and allowed to leave.
Those who were among the first on the scene recalled a horrific and eery scene of twisted wreckage amid fog and smoke and the sounds of the injured and scared.
“You just hear all kinds of calls and people screaming for help,” said tow truck driver Wesley Ratcliff, who got to the scene not long after it happened.
“It’s sad day out here in the East man, it’s a sad day. I’ve been doing this for 13 years and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Ratcliff said.
Police said two people died in the crash that occured in the westbound lane – a man from Slidell, 54, and another man from Springfield.
Twenty-five people were hospitalized, some in critical condition, while 37 others reported injuries, but refused treatment. A firefighter was injured during a rescue operations and suffered minor lacerations.
The injured were taken to Tulane Hospital, LSU Interim Hosptial, Slidell Memorial Hospital and Ochsner Baptist, according to the New Orleans EMS.
The accident also caused a closure of the eastbound lanes, but those lanes were reopened around 3:20 p.m.
Authorities said what led to the pileup is still undetermined, but one man involved in the crash told WWL-TV it was a result of extremely poor visibility from either fog or smoke.
“When I got out here, there were times when you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you,” said another tow truck driver, Keith Johnson. “No way you could’ve seen this coming, if you were driving through this, you just, boom. You’re driving and all of a sudden you’re just in the accident.”
Officials say that it could be several hours before the area is cleared and advise commuters to add extra time for their drive.