Four people are dead following separate crashes on Tuesday night along a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 78 in Berks County.
The crashes happened within 2 hours of each other and the strain on emergency personnel forced dispatchers to bring in help from Schuylkill County.
Fatal Crashes on I-78 in Berks County Claim 4 Lives
State Police in Hamburg have released details on these incidents, the first of which happened at about 8:20 p.m., near Mile Marker 27 along I-78 East.
Based on their investigation into the first crash, police say Brenda Brownfield, 69, of Georgia, was transporting a new school bus to Canada. She was in the right lane with the new bus, approaching stopped traffic ahead.
Police say traffic had stopped in the right lane due to the left lane being closed for construction about a mile ahead.
Brownfield apparently didn’t see that traffic had stopped and eventually crashed into the rear of a Chevrolet Cruze driven by a 20-year-old man. The bus continued forward with the smaller vehicle ahead of it, pinned underneath.
Those vehicles combined then crashed into the rear of a vehicle driven by Warren Jackson, 58, of New Jersey. Jackson’s vehicle, a Nissan Xterra, was then forced into the back end of a “commercial vehicle” driven by Jaspreet Chahal, 32, of Pennsylvania.
The driver of the Cruze and a passenger in Jackson’s vehicle were both pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Police have not released the identities of those victims.
Brownfield, Jackson, and Chahal all escaped the crash uninjured, police say.
Clearing the scene of that crash took hours and traffic had to be detoured off the eastbound lanes of I-78 at the Strausstown exit. As vehicles were exiting, at about 10:23 p.m., police say a tractor-trailer driven by a New Florence man failed to slow down for the stopped traffic ahead of him.
His truck crashed into the rear of a van driven by a man from Inman, South Carolina, and set off a chain reaction, as the second vehicle hit a third a head of it, and then a fourth vehicle was rear-ended, and finally a fifth.
The third vehicle in the chain was occupied by 3 women and 1 man from Reading. A woman sitting in the rear passenger side seat of that vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. A Williamsport man driving the fourth vehicle in the chain was also pronounced dead at the scene.
Police have not released the identities of anyone involved in that second crash. They say an investigation is still ongoing and ask anyone with information about the incident to call 610-562-6885.