January 30, 2010
I-81 pileup snares motorists
11-vehicle accident closes interstate for approximately 2 hours Friday
PREBLE — The driver of a taxi cab who was likely driving at a speed unsafe for icy road conditions has been ticketed for causing a crash Friday morning on Interstate 81 involving 11 vehicles, according to state police.
The accident occurred at 9:19 a.m., three miles south of interstate Exit 13 in Preble. Homer firefighters, state police and an ambulance from TLC Emergency Medical Services were at the scene.
Of the 11 vehicles involved in the crash, one was a tractor-trailer, said Trooper Dan Huff. Only two drivers had minor injuries.
Taxi cab driver William Rust, 46, started the chain reaction of collisions by traveling off the right side of the road and turning back onto the highway, taking up both traffic lanes, Huff said.
It is believed Rust, a driver with Binghamton-based Yellow Medivan & Taxi Incorporated, was traveling at a speed unsafe for the icy road, Huff said.
Weather was partly a factor, but Huff attributed the ultimate cause to Rust’s speed. Other vehicles could not stop in time to avoid further collisions, Huff said.
“Bad roads never cause accidents,” Huff said. “They contribute, but they never cause them.”
Rust was issued a traffic infraction ticket for failing to yield right of way entering the roadway, Huff said.
Rust was treated for a minor head injury at University Hospital in Syracuse and released by Friday afternoon.
The taxi cab was totaled and a Jeep Cherokee behind it sustained front end damage, Huff said. A 2010 Ford Flex was also rear-ended by the tractor-trailer, smashing its back window and sending it into a guardrail, he said.
The tractor-trailer had to be towed from the scene.
One driver, Nathan Maxfield, 27, of Cortland, said the whole accident happened suddenly and took “a couple seconds.”
He was traveling from the Syracuse area to Binghamton.
Standing outside his car parked along the roadside in the middle of the traffic pileup, Maxfield said he saw a strong gust of wind come blowing across the field between the northbound and southbound interstate lanes, covering the entire highway.
“All I saw was just tons of snow flying everywhere,” Maxfield said.
The rest, he recalled, happened very quickly.
Slowing down and sliding on the road, Maxfield said he looked behind and saw a black tractor-trailer coming at him jackknifed “completely sideways,” but then recovered and straightened out as it passed him without impact.
“So I pulled over to the side of the road so I wouldn’t get hit from behind,” Maxfield said.
Huff said everyone involved with this crash was “extremely lucky” there were no serious injuries.“It could’ve been a lot worse, and I’ve seen a lot worse,” Huff said.
Emergency officials closed Interstate 81 southbound for two and a half hours. Troopers diverted traffic to Route 281.
Drivers should be wary of potentially bad weather and hazardous road conditions this time of year, Huff said. He urged drivers to not travel at unsafe speeds when on icy or snowy roads, saying the weather is always a secondary factor when it comes to crashes.
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