Cars 'just started bouncing off one another'

In Thursday's fog, 46 vehicles make up nine accident scenes

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Idaho City resident Jeff Wright looked at a crumpled ball of metal pinned under a loaded logging truck and shook his head.

Just minutes before, it had been a Subaru Forester. After being involved in one of the worst pileups in Southern Idaho history, it was a hulk of steel, plastic and rubber.

"It was a violent accident," Wright said. "I can't believe the driver survived."

Forty-six vehicles were involved in a series of crashes in heavy fog and ice Thursday morning on Interstate 84 just west of the Ten Mile Road overpass in Meridian. That came right after another set of wrecks took place nearby on the freeway.

The driver of the Forester was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries, the Idaho State Police reported, and nine other people were treated at hospitals for less severe injuries.

The names of those injured or involved in the crashes were not available Thursday.

"I've lived in Idaho all my life and I haven't seen anything this bad," said Idaho Transportation Department spokesman Steve Grant.

Wright said he was traveling west at about 60 mph when he hit a wall of fog and slowed down. The Forester was behind him in the far left lane of I-84.

The driver of that Subaru tried to move over but his car clipped another vehicle, according to the Idaho State Police. The logging truck then clipped other tractor-trailers and hit the Forester, which got caught under the front right portion of the log truck's trailer. The car was dragged down the freeway and rolled several times, ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker said.

Wright said he steered right and ended up two lanes over when his car, a Subaru Outback, came to a stop. He rushed to help the injured driver of the Forester, calling 911 and keeping the man, who remained conscious, calm.

"I was holding his hand while I was calling dispatch," he said.

Log truck driver Cory Ford said that the fog was thick as he approached the Ten Mile overpass but that visibility was adequate.

"Then all of a sudden, it got really bad," he said.

Ford, who works for Brian Wilson Trucking of Emmett, said a car and a tractor-trailer cut in front of him in the far left lane. He said he tapped his brakes and then collided with one of the other vehicles.

"I hit the car or truck and hit the barrier hard," Ford said.

Brian Wilson arrived at the scene early Thursday afternoon with a boom truck to remove the logs.

"I'm glad no one was killed or hurt worse than they were," he said.

Reconstruction experts sprayed paint on the pavement to mark where each vehicle ended up. Each one was assigned a number.

ISP Capt. Bill Gardiner said it would take at least two weeks for the reconstruction team to finish its investigation of the crashes on westbound I-84 at Meridian. Another crash took place on the eastbound side of the interstate at Ten Mile Road.

ITD's Grant searched the agency's archives Thursday for any crashes of similar size, but came up short.

Twenty-four vehicles were involved in a series of wrecks on Interstate 86 west of Pocatello on April 13, 2013. The freeway was shut down in both directions as blowing dust cut visibility completely. Nine people were taken to hospitals for treatment.

Eighteen vehicles crashed during a winter storm that blew snow across Interstate 84 in Elmore County last January. One man was killed, Grant said, when he got out of his car and was struck by another vehicle.

Another 18-vehicle pileup took place April 11, 2012, on I-84 near Burley. It was also caused by blowing dust. At least two people were hospitalized.

Meridian resident Carlee Wonderlich was headed to Nampa when she got caught in Thursday's crash.

Wonderlich, driving a small Toyota sedan, slowed down and was passed by a tractor-trailer. Then, she said, vehicles "just started bouncing off one another."

Her car made it through with only slight damage to its rear left side.

"I'm blessed, when you look around and see what happened here," she said.

Dave Peterson and his wife, Sandy, owners of Dave's Towing in Star, were driving east on the freeway to deliver a pickup when they passed the crash. Theirs was one of the dozens of area towing companies called later to help remove disabled vehicles.

"This is about as many vehicles that I've seen in one wreck," said Dave Peterson, who has operated his company for 15 years. "What's great is that there were no fatalities."

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service