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updated: 1/31/2013 10:06 PM

30-plus vehicle pileup injures at least 10 in Indiana

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  • Police and emergency personal work the scene of a pileup involving more than 30 vehicles Thursday on Interstate 70 in Plainfield, Ind. The crash closed the interstate in both directions.

      Police and emergency personal work the scene of a pileup involving more than 30 vehicles Thursday on Interstate 70 in Plainfield, Ind. The crash closed the interstate in both directions.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- A more than 30-vehicle pileup on a snowy Indiana interstate left at least 10 people injured Thursday, including at least one critically, and shut down a heavily traveled highway for most of the evening, authorities said.

Most of the injuries in the afternoon pileup along Interstate 70 were minor, but one victim's condition was "very critical," Indiana State Police Sgt. Rich Myers said.

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Semitrailers sat smashed side-by-side against one another along the stretch about 20 miles west of Indianapolis, with cars and other smaller vehicles pushed to the sides of the roadway. About 20 big rigs and some 15 passenger vehicles were involved in the pileup, Indiana State Police Capt. Dave Bursten said.

Several motorists blinded by a snow squall crashed into stalled traffic on the slick road, police said.

"We believe weather was a factor," Bursten said. Snow was falling at the time of the crash and whiteout conditions were possible, along with slick roads, according to the National Weather Service.

At one point, three elephants had to be off-loaded from a semitrailer that slid off the highway, but were reloaded when the truck was pulled back onto the road, Bursten said. He had no other details on the pachyderms.

The main crash happened at the interstate's 65-mile marker, but there was a second crash involving at least two jackknifed semitrailer rigs nearby, Indiana Department of Transportation spokeswoman Debbie Calder said.

Bursten said the "epicenter" of the crash was directly below an overpass.

Hours after the pileup, mangled metal and ripped tires remained along the highway's shoulder even after most of the wreckage had been removed.

All lanes of the heavily traveled east-west freeway remain closed in both directions for more than five hours. Eastbound lanes reopened Thursday night, but westbound lanes remained closed indefinitely, state police said. Eastbound traffic at one point was backed up at least five miles.

Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Erickson said his agency and the Department of Environmental Management sent hazardous materials crews to the site.

"I think it's because of fuel spills," Erickson said.

IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said auto fluids spilled in the massive crash but no hazardous cargo was involved.

Traffic on nearby Route 40 grew heavy with diverted vehicles, and several crashes followed.

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