Mega-Crash on Turnpike Claims One Life, Sends 15 People to RWJ Hospital in New Brunswick

CRANBURY, NJ—Yet again, ice decorated the roads of New Jersey including its main artery, the NJ Turnpike, making driving conditions treacherous and causing a 23+ car pileup.

The highway turned into what one Twitter user called a "skating rink" between Exit 8 and Exit 8A in Middlesex County, leading to the deadly series of crashes in Cranbury Township.

Two pileups occurred, both in a similar area: one in the cars/buses/trucks roadway, and another on the cars-only roadway.

At least 23 vehicles were involved: a crowded bus, seven trucks, and 15 other vehicles were counted in the wreckage, and there are probably more.

Fifteen cars crashed on the inner highway, which the Turnpike Authority reserves for smaller vehicles.

The bus, seven trucks, and other cars had their own pileup on the outer highway, which buses and trucks are allowed to use, along with smaller vehicles. 

At least one car caught fire, and one person died in the wreck.  State troopers said that at least 45 people were hurt, with minor injuries.

"We received 15 patients [in New Brunswick]. All were treated for minor injuries and released," said Peter Haigney, a spokesperson for Robert Wood Johnson Health Systems.  "We did receive one patient transfer from RWJ Hamilton for evaluation. That patient was listed in good condition."

While, officially, the investigators have yet to place blame on any one factor for the disaster, ice seems to be a reasonably plausible suspect. 

Tom Feeney, a spokesperson for the Turnpike Authority, noted that the speed limit had been lowered to 35 mph due to "wintry driving conditions" between Exits 6 and 12.  When the Authority does this, the signs announcing the condition are colored yellow, while the speed limit number flashes on the signs. 

The limit had been 45, earlier in the evening, in that area. 

A spokesperson for the NJ Turnpike Authority said the pileups happened around 9:15 pm.

The mega-crashes took place near the Molly Pitcher Service Area, around milepost 71.3. 

Traffic may have also impacted Route 18.  The Turnpike Authority posted messages, on its new electronic signs, saying that the Turnpike was closed south of Exit 9.

However, traffic was allowed to continue to Exit 8A, resulting in tremendous congestion between Exits 8A and 9.