Five tractor trailers were involved in a fatal accident on Wednesday morning due to black ice and heavy fog.
The incident happened on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 in Missoula, Montana, at mile marker 58, near the Tarkio interchange.
According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the chain-reaction accident began when a flatbed truck lost control on black ice around 5 a.m. The truck ended up sliding on an I-90 overpass, causing the load of lumber to spill and block the roadway. The driver and passenger in the lumber truck were not injured.
Two minutes later, a second semi truck that was approaching the accident tried to avoid hitting the lumber truck and veered to the left, jumping the median and ending up in westbound traffic.
The driver of the second truck quickly exited his vehicle, and fearing that he would get his by westbound traffic, jumped over the median barrier, unaware of the 100 foot drop below. The driver died in the fall. Police say he may have been unaware of the depth of the drop due to the dense fog.
A third truck then drove into the first truck, causing the driver of the third truck to be ejected from his vehicle. He was flown to Kalispell Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.
A fourth truck then slipped on black ice and crashed into the wreckage, but the driver made it out without injury.
Finally, a fifth truck then slammed into the existing pileup — causing its driver to pass away at the scene.
Interstate 90 was closed in both directions between mile marker 50 and 60 due to the crash. All westbound lanes and one eastbound lane were reopened as of 5:15 p.m.
During the response effort, a firefighter slipped on black ice and fell nearly 40 feet off the overpass. He was transported to a nearby hospital and is expected to recover.
After the incident, Frenchtown Fire District spokesman Mel Holtz emphasized the need to slow down and exercise caution around the crash site.
“I can’t emphasize this enough, slow down” Holtz said.
The Montana Highway Patrol hasn’t yet released the name or identities of any of the drivers involved.