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One dead, 4 hurt in turnpike crash

The scene of a multi-vehicle crash on both the north and southbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Mahoning Valley exit was described as a war zone, unbelievable and something out of a movie by motorists who witnessed the wreckage.

One man is dead and there were at least four reported injuries following the crash at mile marker 79 northbound that happened shortly before 6 p.m. Friday.

Carbon County Coroner Bob Miller said the deceased was a passenger in one of the cars involved. Six vehicles were involved, according to Miller, who was on the scene. Miller declined to identify the victim at this time until his family is notified.

There were five cars and a jackknifed tractor-trailer, which was over the median from the southbound lane into the northbound lane.

Emergency crews from Lehighton, Palmerton and Mahoning Ambulance, as well as Franklin Township Fire Company responded to the scene.

Crews shut down all lanes of the turnpike from the Mahoning Valley exit to Pocono exit and rerouted all northbound traffic along other roads from Mahoning Valley.

The southbound lanes were used as a landing zone for one victim who needed to be flown to an area hospital.

After several hours, maintenance crews began walking from vehicle to vehicle, helping motorists make U-turns to be able to exit the turnpike. Commercial vehicles were not turned.

Robin Grohotolski of Towamensing Township was stuck in traffic for nearly an hour on her commute home from Air Products in the Lehigh Valley.

She drives the turnpike back and forth every day to avoid traffic but Friday night she came to a standstill just before the tunnel.

“The gentleman in the car in front of me got out and came back and said his brother had been sitting in traffic at Hickory Run for about an hour,” she said.

She saw some people behind her backing up and getting off the emergency exit, but as she contemplated doing that, other cars pulled behind her.

After about an hour, officials started slowly moving cars off the Mahoning exit.

In the 20 years she’s been commuting on the turnpike, Grohotolski said she’s only been stuck a few times.

“The bad part is that emergency vehicles can’t get to the scene right away because of all the stopped traffic,” Grohotolski said. “I am sorry for those involved.”