At about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, Tammy Waltman was in Carmel driving northbound on Interstate 95 when the sun hit her eyes right before she reached exit 174. She couldn’t see anything, but after hearing crashing sounds all around her she slowed down and managed to stop — inches from a tractor-trailer truck.
“Cars around me and behind me were going every which way,” she said.
In front of her, a pregnant woman’s car was hit by the truck behind which Waltman had stopped. She saw the woman’s car flip and land right side up.
“She had gotten out of the car, and she was standing there shaking,” Waltman said.
Behind Waltman, there was a Maine State Police trooper who was trying to clear the traffic from the interstate after his cruiser also ended up in the 30-car pileup.
The trooper, who suffered minor injuries, asked Waltman if she would let the pregnant woman stay in her car to warm up. Waltman said ambulances started arriving shortly after and the woman was taken to a hospital.
Later on Tuesday, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor said it treated 11 patients from the crash site but that none of their injuries were life-threatening. One patient did receive serious injuries that included a bone fracture, while many others just suffered scrapes and bruises.
One of the patients was brought to the hospital by a LifeFlight helicopter, according to state police.
“My car was unscathed. I don’t know how that happened,” Waltman, who lives in Corinna, said after she pulled off the interstate and parked at Dysart’s Travel Stop in Newburgh. “The only reason I slowed down was I could hear what was going on in front of me.”
Just before 7:50 a.m., Maine State Police received reports of about four or five vehicles that went off the road after being involved in a crash. Soon, it grew to a half-mile-long pileup with approximately 30 vehicles, including three 18-wheelers.
“Once the first accident happened, not being able to stop, the roads being slippery and not being able to see, basically caused a chain reaction,” Maine State Police Sgt. Barry Meserve said.
The blinding sunlight appears to have caused the pileup, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Merrill said.
Department maintenance crews had treated that section of road Tuesday morning, Merrill said.
“The conditions were bare and wet at the time of the crash,” he said.
By 9:22 a.m., tow trucks from multiple companies had taken at least 12 totaled cars from the scene of the pileup, and the interstate was covered in crash debris.
By around 10:30 a.m., most ambulances and tow trucks had left the crash scene. Maine Department of Transportation crews started cleaning up the broken glass and plastic off the interstate.
Sid Bizeau’s pickup truck was towed to Dysart’s Travel Stop in Newburgh.
He was on his way to the Bangor VA clinic to get lab work done when his truck was rear-ended.
The impact pushed his truck into the back of a van from School Administrative District 54 transportation vehicle, which had a student, an ed tech and a driver on board.
“The sun was in everybody’s eyes. No one could see,” he said.
The driver’s side of Bizeau’s truck was damaged in the crash, but he was not hurt.
The driver of the SAD 54 van drove back to Skowhegan. No one on the van was injured, but all three van occupants are being checked at the Redington-Fairview General Hospital, according to David Leavitt, the school district’s director of support services.
State police reopened the interstate’s northbound lanes to traffic around 11:15 a.m.