PORTLAND, Maine — Tragedy was largely averted Friday morning as only one individual was hospitalized after a 19-vehicle crash that shut down the southbound lanes of Interstate 295 in Cumberland and occupied state police for four hours.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said in a statement late Friday morning that the 19-vehicle pileup began with one car spinning out of control on the highway’s southbound lane just before 8 a.m., with five additional vehicles then colliding with it.

“In the immediate aftermath, 13 other vehicles were involved,” McCausland said, in part. “Traffic then backed up for miles until a number of wreckers were able to clear the roadway. For most of the time, one lane remained open, but traffic slowed to a crawl. Troopers reported one person was transported to the hospital by ambulance and the injury was not life threatening.”

McCausland said “a number of other crashes” occurred farther south on the Maine Turnpike, with trouble spots from Kennebunk to the Biddeford-Saco area.

The Maine Turnpike Authority issued a warning to drivers that conditions are only expected to get worse, and to avoid taking to the roads if possible.

“The Maine Turnpike Authority has a 65-year history of providing unparalleled performance in keeping the Pike clear of snow and ice,” said turnpike public relations manager Dan Morin in a statement. “It’s important to keep in mind, however, that despite our best efforts, it is not always possible for pavement to be completely clear.

“Travel and road conditions change rapidly, and drivers are in the best position to perceive poor conditions and adjust their driving accordingly by slowing speeds and keeping a safe distance from others,” he continued. “If you’re unsure about driving during a snowstorm, then don’t.”

BDN writer Ryan McLaughlin contributed to this report.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.