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Multi-vehicle crash shuts down all four lanes of I-64

By From staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A massive vehicle pileup on the Interstate 64 bridge over the Kanawha River between Nitro and St. Albans shut down all four lanes of traffic Thursday evening and left a sea of twisted wreckage across the span. 

The crash occurred sometime after 5 p.m. Kanawha Metro 911 dispatchers said at least 13 vehicles were involved but a first responder at the scene had told them he had lost count of the number in the wreckage.

"It's a mess," one dispatcher said minutes after the crash. "We've got everybody rolling that way; Putnam County has everybody rolling that way. It looks like it will be a hazard for a while."

Kanawha Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman later said 20 to 30 vehicles were involved.

No one was killed but several people were injured. Most of the injuries were not serious. 

Sigman said firefighters had to cut a couple of people from their vehicles. Nine people were taken to local hospitals, according to the state Department of Transportation.

A KRT bus took the uninjured and the injured people who refused treatment from the scene, dispatchers said. It wasn't clear where they were being taken.

Charleston Area Medical Center received four patients, said spokesman Dale Witte.  

Firefighters from Nitro, St. Albans and Teays Valley were at the scene, along with Nitro police, dispatchers said.

The cause of the crash isn't known, but a roadside assistance officer told a reporter at the scene that a vehicle was traveling west in the eastbound lanes.

Sigman expected the eastbound lanes to be closed until late Thursday. The westbound lanes were moving slowly by about 7:30 p.m.

Winfield High School had scheduled its graduation ceremony at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium Thursday evening.

Claire Shanholtzer, 17, was one of the 181 seniors to graduate Thursday night. She said they were lining up when they learned of the crash.

"We asked (Principal Bruce McGrew) to wait so that the others could partake in the ceremonies," said Shanholtzer, who will attend Wells College in New York in the fall on a swimming scholarship. "They sent a bus to get them so they could be here. I think that's pretty amazing."  

McGrew said it was an easy decision to make but that his main concern was for the safety of the students and their families. He said 12 students were caught up in the crash and the traffic behind it.

The Kanawha County Ambulance Authority brought the 12 teens to the ceremony. McGrew said by the time they made the decision to delay the ceremony the students already were on their way.

"It was like clockwork," McGrew said. "Everything worked out perfectly."

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