MIDDLEBURY -- At least one person was killed Tuesday in a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 84 that shut down the eastbound side of the highway for more than eight hours.
Describing the accident scene as a war zone, some witnesses said they saw bodies laying on the road and cars so badly damaged that they weren't recognizable.
Nancy Spear, of Oxford, said she approached the accident while headed west just moments after it occurred Tuesday. Smoke billowed into the air.
"It was just horrible. I've never seen anything like that before," she said. "There was literally twisted metal everywhere and bodies laying in the road."
The accident occurred around 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the eastbound side of the highway was still closed to traffic at 11 p.m.
It appeared that at least one tractor-trailer was involved in the accident and an unknown number of vehicles.
Spear said she saw a silver car that "looked like it had been crumpled into a ball," and a person who was trying to give what looked like CPR to another person lying on the highway.
"People were just rushing out of their cars to help," she said. "I was in shock at the time. I was crying when I called 911."
After entering the highway from Exit 17, Spear said, the traffic on the eastbound lane was "bumper to bumper," but as she approached Exit 16 "there were no more cars on the highway."
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, confirmed at least one person killed as a result of the crash. He added that officials on the scene described it as "a war zone."
"This was an extremely serious accident, one like we haven't seen for some time," he said. "I can't imagine there aren't life-threatening injuries for those who survived."
He added that multiple ambulances, as well as a LifeStar helicopter, responded to the accident.
State police officials released few details about the accident. Spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said many of the department's investigators were on the scene attempting to reconstruct the accident.
Authorities said they hoped to have at least one lane open to traffic by midnight.
Traffic was tied up at one point for more than 10 miles of I-84 in both directions. Variable signs were used throughout the area, including in New York state, advising people to avoid the highway.
Spear said she's been praying all day.
"There is no way everyone lived through that," she said, "but I'm praying for a miracle."
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