Turnpike reopens after fatal truck crash near Bedford; robbery suspect gets caught in traffic jam
The eastbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike reopened entirely about 7:20 p.m. Wednesday after closing for more than seven hours as crews worked to clear a fiery crash that killed a truck driver, officials said.
“This was a tricky incident scene on a steep hillside complicated by intense fire, multiple vehicles and one tragic death,” turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said. “Just putting out the fire alone took hours.”
The remaining stretch of a miles-long eastbound detour was cleared about 7:20 p.m.
By 6:40 p.m., traffic was “back to normal” between New Stanton and Bedford, but a detour remained in effect between Bedford (mile marker 146) to Breezewood (mile marker 161) until 7:20 p.m., turnpike officials said.
The fatal crash occurred at milepost 158, the Bedford exit in Bedford County, shortly after noon, DeFebo said. It involved two tractor-trailers, one hauling cars that overturned and one with an enclosed trailer that burst into flames.
“One was over the bank fully involved in flames and the other was partially over the bank,” DeFebo reported about 1:30 p.m.
The driver of one of the tractor-trailers died, officials said. His name has not yet been released.
The second truck driver was treated for minor injuries at the crash site, DeFebo said.
State police are investigating.
Initially, traffic was detoured at the New Stanton exit, Exit 75, and via several roads reaching Route 30 to re-enter at Breezewood.
Drivers forced to exit the turnpike via that detour reported persistent delays after 7 p.m. on Route 30 as motorists made their way back onto the turnpike.
Police: Robber speeds into turnpike jam
As emergency workers were responding to the crash, police said a woman from La Porte, Ind., robbed a Sheetz in Breezewood and attacked a tractor-trailer truck driver around 12:30 p.m.
The woman was identified as Sarah Miller, 36.
She was handcuffed by state troopers but was able to slip out of her restraints and steal a state police patrol vehicle, according to police reports.
Police said Miller fled westbound down the turnpike at the Breezewood interchange at a high rate of speed. She allegedly drove through a backlog of the earlier truck crash at speeds exceeding 100 mph.
Miller was eventually taken into custody near mile marker 119.
Troopers said Miller struck three vehicles and attempted to hit two troopers who were outside their vehicles and attempted to ram another state police vehicle.
She is charged with robbery, motor vehicle theft, escape and numerous other offenses.
Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.