A fuel tanker skidded off a Baltimore highway and exploded on Saturday morning, sending sheets of fire in the path of the approaching traffic and triggering a deadly 55-vehicle pileup on the ice-coated roadway, Maryland officials said.
The accident on Interstate 95, which occurred at about 5:00 a.m. local time, left two people dead, including the driver of the fuel truck, said Lieutenant Kevin Ayd, spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.
The fiery pileup was one of dozens of crashes in the Baltimore-Washington area as freezing rain slowly accumulated into an icy sheet on roadways in the early morning darkness.
A second multi-vehicle crash occurred at about the same time along Interstate 95 in Baltimore, part of a major north-south corridor along the US East Coast. One person was killed in that accident when one of the drivers exited his vehicle and was struck by oncoming traffic.
Fatal crashes peppered other parts of the country hit with plunging temperatures and rain and snow. In Indiana, state police said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that the department has responded to more than 380 property-damage crashes, more than 60 injury crashes and four fatal crashes since 10:00 p.m. local time on Friday.