A chain-reaction crash involving more than two dozen vehicles on Interstate 95 northbound in Carmel on Tuesday morning may have been caused by “blinding sun,” the Maine State Police said.

About 30 cars – including one state police cruiser – were involved in the pileup that injured 13 people and closed I-95 northbound in Penobscot County for more than three hours. Five years ago, more than 100 cars were involved in a similar chain-reaction pileup on the same stretch of interstate south of Bangor.

A LifeFlight helicopter flew one man with a serious injury to a local hospital, police said.

Thirteen other people were taken to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, though none of the injuries is believed to be life-threatening, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said Tuesday night.

Among the first to arrive at the scene Tuesday was state police Sgt. Bernard Brunette, who was driving in the area when seven cars crashed at 7:37 a.m., setting off the chain-reaction pileup. An image taken from the camera in Brunette’s cruiser showed glaring sun conditions.

“While on scene, vehicles continued to crash around Sgt. Brunette,” Sgt. Barry Meserve said during a news conference in Bangor Tuesday afternoon.

Ten additional vehicles were involved in secondary crashes near the scene at mile 174 as traffic began to back up. Several tractor-trailers struck other vehicles at full speed, Meserve said.

Hospital officials said 13 people were admitted Tuesday, most with scrapes and bruises. Several of those patients already have been released, News Center Maine reported.

One state trooper sustained minor injuries when his cruiser was struck. The cruiser was damaged but was driven from the scene, police said.

Several hundred drivers were effectively stranded on a seven-mile stretch of highway as emergency crews worked at the scene. The Maine Department of Transportation used a highway crossover to turn around vehicles stranded behind the crash scene.

The interstate reopened around 11:15 a.m. after being closed for more than three hours.

 

Police said nearly every tow truck operator in the Bangor area sent wreckers to help police clear the scene. Maine Forest Rangers used a helicopter to provide police aerial views of the scene.

Police initially said as many as 60 cars were involved in the crash, but later revised that to say about half that number were involved.

In February 2015, more than 100 vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction pileup on a stretch of I-95 in Carmel. That incident sent 17 people to the hospital and left damaged vehicles and accident debris strewn over a three-mile stretch of the northbound lanes.

Meserve said lessons from that 2015 pileup allowed troopers to better respond to Tuesday’s crash. Troopers now tag every car as it is checked. As soon as injured people were taken care of, troopers began photographing every aspect of the scene, he said.

Troopers also took photos of car registrations and drivers’ licenses and insurance cards to expedite the process to clear the scene, Meserve said.

Police continue to investigate the road conditions at the time of the crash. Troopers would like to speak with anyone who witnessed the crash who has not already talked with police. Witnesses can call Trooper Adam Gould at 973-3700.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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