A lunch-hour rain squall Friday set the stage for an Interstate 5 pileup that ensnarled 43 cars and several large trucks, injuring more than two dozen people, the Washington State Patrol said.
Some 30 people were injured in five separate accidents in the southbound lanes and taken to hospitals.
For several hours, southbound interstate traffic near this south Seattle suburb was rerouted to Washington 99 and Washington 167, which also became congested by the volume of rush-hour and Labor Day weekend travel.
The first collision occurred about 12:45 p.m. The burst of pounding rain after weeks of dry weather “added to the problem,” said patrol Lt. Rox Reick.
“There was almost a chain reaction of vehicles involved,” he said.
“The cars in front of me had stopped. I avoided one and I couldn’t avoid the next one. So there was ‘Bang, Bang’ and that’s it,” one man, Juris Spade, told KOMO-TV.
By 3:30 p.m., the southbound lanes were closed and traffic was backed up about 10 miles from the scene north to Southcenter, Reick said.
The two most seriously injured people - both women - were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where one was in critical condition with a head injury and the other was in serious condition with abdominal injuries, hospital spokesman Larry Zalin said. Their names were not being released, he said.
Eight other accident victims also were being treated there, Zalin said.
Other victims were treated and released from Highline Community Hospital, the Auburn Regional Medical Center, Valley Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital. One person was admitted to St. Francis.
Northbound, gawking passers-by slowed traffic and caused a backup in those lanes from the scene to the Tacoma Dome - a distance of about five miles, Reick said.
Troopers reopened the southbound lanes by Friday evening.