Four deaths, nine injuries in 27 vehicle chain-reaction
Poor visibility led to a pile-up involving 27 vehicles, which tragically claimed four lives. The crash occurred in February around 8:10 am in the westbound lanes of Interstate 16 near Montrose, Georgia while motorists were picking their way through thick fog – possibly intensified by smoke from a nearby controlled burn - during their morning commute.
Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) dispatched crews to Dublin for placement of signage to caution motorists after 911-communications relayed a message that several motorists had reported low visibility along the Interstate. Trucks carrying warning signs were still on the way when the crash occurred almost 30 minutes later, shutting down both eastbound and westbound lanes of I-16 traffic for more than six hours.
Assorted cars, pickup-trucks, along with seven 18-wheelers were involved in the crash. Vehicles that pulled-off the roadway onto the shoulder were rear-ended by vehicles driven by other motorists also attempting to avoid the carnage. Billowing black smoke from an exploded, fume-filled tanker-trailer further impeded visibility. Nine crash victims were transported to Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin for treatment of crash-related injures. Three deaths were initially reported by emergency workers. A fourth body was later uncovered when crews were cleaning up the quarter-mile littered with charred vehicles and broken glass.
According to news reports, perishing in the crash were:
- Michael Jarome Smith (Convington)
- Clayton and Josephine Warnock (Dublin)
- Jeff Moore (Effingham County)
Captain Kirk McGlamery of the Georgia State Patrol indicated officers will be reconstructing the crash scene to determine exactly what triggered the chain-reaction, and whether the controlled burn permit issued for the previous day for a location in the vicinity of the crash site had extended into Wednesday and compounded the poor visibility from the fog.
I-16 extends 170 miles from Macon to Savannah. This is a heavily-used route by commercial haulers transporting loads between the bustling seaport in Savannah and Atlanta, as well as travelers connecting with I-95 spanning much of the Eastern Seaboard.
The National Weather Service had issued a dense fog advisory for the area on that Wednesday morning, and then later reported that visibility was less than a quarter-mile during the timeframe when the 27 vehicle pile-up occurred.
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