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Accident Report Detail

Series of Multi-Vehicle Collisions and Fires Under Limited Visibility Conditions

Executive Summary

‚ÄčAt 11:20 p. m. , e. d. s. t. , October 23, 1973, on the northern section of the New Jersey Turnpike, between Gate 15 and U.S. Route 46, the first of a series of nine collisions occurred. Eight accidents followed between that time and 2:45 a.m., October 24, 1973.

The latter collisions occurred under limited visibility conditions. The conditions were caused by a combination of smoke from burning material in an abandoned garbage dump in the Hackensack Meadowlands and fog.
Although responsible officials were aware of the hazardous conditions before the collisions, precautions to assure the safety of the motorists did not prevent the series of accidents. At 12:45 a. m., officials began to close affected areas of the Turnpike. By 3:04 a. m., on October 24, 1973, the areas were closed. During that time, eight people were killed in six collisions.

In all, 66 motor vehicles were involved; 9 persons were killed, and 39 others were injured.

Probable Cause

‚ÄčThe National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this series of multivehicle collisions was the penetration of vehicles into areas of severely reduced visibility due to fog and smoke, the latter occasioned by fires adjacent to the turnpike which had not been promptly extinguished. The delay in closing the affected roadways by the New Jersey State Police contributed to the number of accidents.

Accident Location: New Jersey Turnpike , NJ    
Accident Date: 10/23/1973
Accident ID: 80281

Date Adopted: 3/5/1975
NTSB Number: HAR-75-02
NTIS Number: PB-241574/AS

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