Car crashes shut icy I-290 in Worcester

MILLBURY, Mass. (WHDH) — Freezing rain was blamed for highway pileups that sent dozens of people to the hospital Sunday morning in central and northern Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State Police say a crash involving 65 cars and three tractor-trailers closed Interstate 290 in Worcester at about 7 a.m. About 35 to 40 people were taken to local hospitals. Two were seriously injured.

Both directions of the highway were reopened by 11:45 a.m., authorities said.

“The collision scene was approximately 1,500 feet long. Involved two trailer-trucks that were sideways across the road, two six-wheeled commercial trucks and 65 vehicles. I have 22 years on the department, all in field, and I've never seen anything of this magnitude,” said Sergeant Stephen Marsh.

A State Police car was rear-ended and the trooper was forced to hurriedly return to her cruiser to avoid cars sliding toward her.

“The three vehicles in front of me hit their brakes and it was sheer ice. They went sideways, hit the barriers, bounced off the barriers and then hit me on one side with one vehicle, the other vehicle hit me on the other side, spun me around. The third vehicle hit me in the front,” said Jim McCorkle, involved in crash.

Sergeant Marsh compared the road to a sheet of ice.

“Essentially it's a chain-reaction crash caused by poor driving conditions. Not operators but the weather,” Marsh said.

The National Weather Service issued a freezing rain advisory through 11 a.m. Sunday for much of western and central Massachusetts, northeast Connecticut and northwest Rhode Island. Police advised motorists returning home from the Thanksgiving holiday to wait until state highway crews treated the roads.

Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said crews treated roads Sunday morning but the road conditions deteriorated quickly.

"It came up suddenly and quickly and the number of crews we had just wasn't enough," he told The Telegram & Gazette.

Temperatures are forecast to rise into the 40s on Monday, keeping roads free of ice.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.