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At least 51 injured in 69-vehicle highway pileup in Virginia

Posted at 7:34 AM, Dec 23, 2019

A major highway pileup in York County, Virginia, Sunday morning resulted in at least 51 people injured and a sizable traffic snarl.

The 69-vehicle wreck shut down traffic on Interstate 64 after a chain-reaction accident, according to the Virginia State Police. Though authorities are still investigating the cause of the collision, state police said there were fog and ice conditions on Queens Creek bridge when the accident occurred at about 7:51 a.m. local time.

Police initially said there were 35 people injured and transported to hospitals but then updated that number to 51 people in the afternoon.

The injuries range from minor to life threatening, police said. No fatalities were reported.

A spokesman for Riverside Regional Medical Center tweeted Sunday that the center was treating 25 of those injured, one of whom was in serious condition.

Bray Hollowell, 18, was on his way to pick up his sister from Richmond when he said he saw cars spinning on black ice. Hollowell told NBC News that he couldn’t brake in time to avoid hitting the car in front of him, then got hit by another car in the back.

“I think it still would have been an initial accident, but I don’t think there would have been as bad of a pile up if there wasn’t fog,” he said. “I would have seen that accident and braked far before.”

During the accident, Hollowell said that people began to exit their cars in an effort to stop cars from coming down the road.

“There was one lady to the left of me and she tried to get out of her car too soon,” Hollowell said. "And she had her door open, and she was hit by another car."

The teen tried to flag down paramedics for the woman and stayed with her to keep her calm. Luckily, Hollowell was able to escape the accident unscathed and waited for his mother to pick him up.

Both lanes were shut down for a period of time before authorities were able to reopen the east-bound lanes in the late morning hours. The westbound lane where the accident occurred wasn't cleared until about 3:30 p.m., several hours after the wreck began.

Drivers were asked to avoid the highway, throwing a wrench into holiday travel plans.

More than 104 million Americans are expected to travel by automobiles this holiday season, the most on record, according to analytic company INRIX.