Joshua Deluco was on his way to Costco to pick up some toilet paper Tuesday afternoon when all of a sudden he found himself in whiteout conditions on an icy state Route 8.
He put on his hazard lights and tried to slow down. But as he stepped on the brake, his anti-lock braking system kicked in.
“At that point, it’s just hold on and hope for the best,” said Deluco, 31, of Munroe Falls, Ohio.
His 2017 BMW smashed into the vehicle ahead of him and his air bag went off, leaving him startled but uninjured. Deluco was in one of at least 100 vehicles involved in a series of chain-reaction crashes that injured 19 people and stretched for 2 miles in the northbound lanes of the highway in northern Summit County.
At first, authorities reported that more than 60 vehicles were involved and 12 people were injured in the crashes that left mangled vehicles scattered all over the road, but they upped those figures Wednesday. The highway was closed for nearly four hours.
None of the people received life-threatening injuries.
Hudson spokeswoman Jody Roberts said authorities don’t have an exact count of the vehicles involved. An estimated 60 vehicles were towed, while others were able to be driven from the scene.
“It was a mess,” she said.
Authorities were still sorting through that mess Wednesday afternoon as people filed into the police department to find out where their vehicles were towed and to give statements about the pileup.
Deluco recounted his story while at Interstate Towing & Transport Specialist on Highland Road in Twinsburg Township. As for that trip to Costco, he said: “It didn’t work out.”
Interstate towed 41 of the vehicles. Company vice president Jay Trgo estimated that 80 percent of them were totaled.
His lots were full of smashed vehicles from the crash.
The stories shared by crash victims were similar. They suddenly found themselves in whiteout conditions and couldn’t see anything ahead. They then either couldn’t stop or were rear-ended. Some victims spent two hours on the highway as emergency crews and tow trucks tended to the injured and cleared the wreckage.
The victims included a couple of pregnant women, Roberts said.
Ronald Skupinski, 65, of Chagrin Falls, was able to stop his 2006 Chevy Trail Blazer safely without striking anyone.
“Nobody behind me stopped,” he said as he showed off the damage to his vehicle at Interstate. “I could hear the collisions behind me, cars spinning in my rearview mirror. I knew it was a matter of time before I was impacted.”
His vehicle, which he calls his “winter beater,” was struck five times. He was hit twice from behind and sideswiped three times. He had a full tank of gas and worried that the Trail Blazer would explode.
“The sideswipes weren’t too bad but the rear impacts were bad,” he said.
After the crashes, he and others got out of their vehicles and checked on others. He and others saw an empty car carrier’s ramp smashed through a windshield.
The woman driving had ducked just in time, otherwise she would have been impaled, Skupinski said.