[Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the crash occurred in Sandusky County, near the Erie County line. The crash was initially reported by the Ohio State Highway Patrol to be in Groton Township, Erie County.]
The crashes happened Friday afternoon along Interstate 80 eastbound between Route 53 and State Route 4 in Sandusky County, near Groton Township and the Erie County line. At least 46 cars were involved. Just after 9 p.m. Friday, the patrol confirmed four people were killed. Many more were injured.
Weather was a factor in the crash.
“This is a stark reminder of what can happen when you get behind the wheel and try to drive in bad weather conditions,” said patrol Sgt. Ryan Purpura in a late Friday update.
“High winds are still remaining and whiteout conditions are still persistent,” he continued. “We ask that you do not travel unless you absolutely have to. If you do have to travel, we ask that you take precautions. Take it slow, be patient, wear your safety belt and increase your following distance.
“Be safe, Ohio.”
The road remained closed in both directions until Saturday. Motorists were advised to take an alternate route. Crews continued to clear the vehicles from the roadway, including 15 commercial vehicles.
Buses took people from the scene to a local facility to stay warm.
The county was under a level 3 snow emergency on Friday.
Earlier Friday, eastbound traffic was being diverted off at exit 91 (State Route 53) and westbound traffic was being diverted off at exit 118 (State Route 250). This led to traffic incidents elsewhere in Erie County, said Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.
“Individuals unfamiliar with our roads, and with limited visibility, we have people getting stuck in drifts. They’re trying to find their way home, but unfortunately, with the turnpike closed, they’re having difficulty trying to get to their destination,” he said.
“We’re gonna continue to monitor the road conditions and we’ll look to lift the level 3 in the morning, if we’re able to do so.”
Gov. Mike DeWine in a statement Friday said many more motorists have been injured in weather-related vehicle crashes in Ohio amid the winter storm. He urged Ohioans to stay home.
“Our sympathy goes to those families who have lost a loved one during this severe weather situation in Ohio,” he said. “The road conditions continue to be very dangerous across the state, with white outs and extremely cold temperatures continuing. Please continue to remain home if at all possible and be vigilant with these extremely dangerous road conditions.”