30-car pileup Saturday on Northway

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Approximately 30 cars and trucks and one tractor-trailer were involved in a multi-vehicle pile-up Saturday evening on the Northway that sent around 30 people to the hospital but caused no serious injuries.

New York State Police said they were still trying to sort out the specifics of the incident that took place in the southbound lanes between exits 15 and 16 and exactly how many cars and people were involved.

“There were multiple accidents at multiple points,” Sgt. Luke Splittgerber said.

At about 5:30 p.m., an hour after the first cars crashed, at least a half-dozen cars were off the road, many smashed to some extent. There were as many as 10 more in the road that were involved in the pile-up. Damaged cars were strewn throughout the quarter-mile accident scene.

One car was trapped under a tractor-trailer. A minivan looked as if it had been struck in the side by another vehicle, and a Ford sedan was nearby, facing the wrong direction, its hood caved in. In one section, four cars were off the road.

Many of the motorists were still in their damaged vehicles more than an hour after the accident, gridlocked by emergency vehicles, tow trucks and smashed cars. On and along the side of the road were pieces of vehicles that firefighters absent-mindedly kicked aside as they went about untangling the mass of cars.

Under the Jones Road overpass, a Ford Taurus was sitting across the road with a pickup truck in its passenger-side door.

The driver of the Ford, Michael Tesch, 21, said he started to slide and crash into cars about 100 yards back from where his car ended up. He was sitting in the back seat of the truck that eventually hit his car with the driver and passengers of that vehicle.

“My guess is it was snowing so hard that no one could see there was an accident in front of them and they started piling up,” he said. “That’s what happened to me.

“I couldn’t really see the cars stopped in front of me, and that’s when I slid and hit a bunch of cars,” he said.

At that point, though, he said there were already cars that had hit one another.

Tesch was not injured, but the driver’s side rear wheel of his car was nearly torn off and the hood was smashed in, along with the damage where the truck hit his car.

The driver of the truck had a one-word explanation for the crash: ice.

Roads were slippery. Less than a mile from Exit 16 was another accident, though it involved only two vehicles.

Splittgerber said there were whiteout conditions between Exit 16 and the Jones Road overpass in which an isolated “snow squall” dropped visibility suddenly and dumped about an inch of snow in a short time.

The lanes were cleared and the Northway was re-opened at about 7:30 p.m.