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54 hurt in 79-vehicle, smoky crash near Port Arthur

More than six dozen motor vehicles crashed recently on a roadway east of Houston. Officials say it is not the first time an annually-planned marsh fire contributed to car accidents on Highway 73 near Port Arthur.

The air was filled with thick morning fog and smoke from the scheduled marsh burning when the crashes occurred. Published reports say more than 50 people were injured in the auto accidents. There were three vehicle occupants were listed as critically hurt. One accident victim suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, no immediate deaths were reported as a result of the dozens of collisions.

Local police issued citations to 18 drivers for traffic infractions ranging from driving with a suspended license to driving too fast. The first traffic incident was reported to the Labelle-Fannett Fire Department as a four-car crash. The number of accidents swelled to include 50 cars by the time police and other emergency personnel reached the foggy, smoky scene.

Several motorists stopped to help those who were hurt. Other volunteers joined in the rescue efforts because their vehicles were stuck behind the multiple crashes along the blocked highway.

The initial crash happened around 6:00 a.m., causing one car to burst into flames. Rescuers were able to extinguish the fire before it could reach other vehicles. Fire crews reported a tractor trailer also got caught up in the wreckage and nearly overturned.

It took emergency crews six hours to clear the damaged vehicles completely and reopen the highway.

Officials say the crash count was high, but not as deadly as a similar accident under the same circumstances four years ago. The fog and smoke from the scheduled marsh fire blinded several drivers along the same road, causing a multi-vehicle accident that killed seven people.

Source: Herald Sun, "Dozens injured in massive 79-car pileup in Texas," Jan. 6, 2012

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