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4 Die in Big Pileup on Foggy I-75

March 15, 2002|From Associated Press

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Four people were killed on a foggy interstate highway Thursday in a 125-vehicle pileup that left a half-mile trail of mangled cars and trucks, authorities said.

Thirty-nine people were reported injured, 15 of them seriously.

"I heard a big truck screeching. I heard a crash. I heard another crash and then another crash. I just heard crash after crash. I heard people screaming," said Debbie Grant, who lives near Interstate 75 in northwestern Georgia, close to the Tennessee line.

The accident happened when a southbound tractor-trailer crossed the median and slammed into several northbound vehicles. Dozens of other drivers plowed into the pile. It wasn't clear why the truck jumped the median, the state patrol said.

The wrecks involved vehicles in all lanes of the interstate, though the four fatalities were in the northbound lanes. Thousands of commuters use I-75 to reach Chattanooga from their northwest Georgia homes.

"It was so foggy I don't have a clue what happened. I'm alive for some reason. I couldn't see anything. I couldn't see what was going on," said Barbara Truett, who nearly hit a pickup.

The wreck happened about 40 miles from the site of a 1990 pileup in Tennessee that killed 12 people. It prompted Tennessee officials to install a fog detection system that uses overhead warning signs to recommend that drivers lower their speed and use alternate routes.

Thursday's accident occurred on a stretch of highway that did not have fog lights.

Two bodies remained trapped in the wreckage. The walking injured were taken to a fire station by school bus.

The southbound lanes were reopened Thursday afternoon, but the northbound lanes would probably be closed until early today.

No charges were planned against any drivers. "It did not appear that there was any fault other than fog," Sheriff Phil Summers said.

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