Authorities say that weather was a contributing factor in a string of crashes along Interstate 80 just west of the Route 19 exit in East Lackawannock Township over the weekend, including a tractor trailer crash that ultimately took the lives of two teens. The accident occurred on Sunday night, says Pennsylvania State Police, killing Hickory High School students Danielle Nelson, age 15, and Alexis Myers, age 16. Two other teens were seriously injured; both were hospitalized and said to be in critical condition. All four teens were wearing their safety belts at the time of the crash. The driver of the first semi was treated at an area hospital with broken bones.
Police say that a snow squall caused deteriorating conditions that contributed to the accident. The teens were riding in an SUV around 6:40 p.m. when it slid out of control due to snow accumulated on the highway, colliding with one tractor trailer before spinning around, stopping on the roadway, and being hit head on with a second tractor trailer.
The girls were part of several vehicles traveling on Interstate 80 together. The group was headed to a Young Life religious event to be held at Grove City College. Another vehicle in the group slid off the road and into the median, but no injuries were reported from that incident. The accident backed up traffic for miles, with the eastbound lane of I80 closing for several hours for accident investigation and cleanup.
The particular stretch of I80 where the accident occurred is a particularly dangerous one, according to Mercer East End Fire Chief Bill Finley. “We have ten miles of Interstate 80 and there were crashes throughout all of those ten miles, plus further east and also west of where we cover,” noted Finley.
Driving in snowy conditions can be daunting for some drivers, particularly less-experienced teen drivers. AAA reports that winter storms, inclement weather and poor road conditions contribute to nearly 500,000 crashes and upwards of 2,000 deaths on the nation’s roadways each winter. AAA recommends that drivers stay safe during winter weather by: