MOUNTAIN GREEN -- Utah Highway Patrol expects to have a busy time reconstructing and investigating a massive Saturday morning accident involving 24 vehicles.
The accidents on westbound Interstate 84, beginning at Mile Marker 90, critically injured three people and led to one man accidentally slipping off a bridge to his death.
"It's a pretty amazing scene to see the type of carnage," said UHP Lt. Chris Simmons. "This is probably one of the largest in my 10 years in Weber County."
A UHP trooper was called out to a car fire near Mile Marker 90 at an icy bridge that goes over train tracks. At 6:30 a.m., he saw a double-tanker carrying butane gas come around a bend and jackknife on the bridge because of the slippery conditions, Simmons said.
Two semi trucks then hit the tanker. The first struck the middle of the double-tanker, straightening it out some, then the second struck the rear tank on the left-hand side.
The second semi that hit the tanker came to rest on the bridge. The driver of that semi, 28-year-old Mithat Nurko, of San Jose, Calif., stepped out of his truck onto a jersey barrier, slipped and fell 50 feet onto the railroad tracks.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a chain reaction following the initial crashes, at least 20 more cars and one more semi crashed into one another at the scene as they traveled at or below freeway speeds, Simmons said.
By the time the crashes ended, the mess of vehicles spanned about 400 yards on I-84.
Three people suffered life-threatening injuries, including back and spinal injuries. Crews had to extricate the victims, who were in critical condition, from their vehicles before they could be taken to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.
Eight more people had nonlife-threatening injuries and were taken to Ogden Regional Medical Center, Simmons said. The hospital had to call in extra staff to handle the sudden influx of patients, he said.
"We are very, very fortunate that we did not lose anyone as a direct result of the (vehicles crashing into each other)," Simmons said.
Meanwhile, the impacts of the semis hitting the double-tanker caused a minor leak in the rear tank. The tank was carrying about 3,800 pounds of butane, a flammable gas that was at risk of exploding.
Hazardous materials crews aided in the cleanup and removal of the butane gas.
Troopers closed I-84 to eastbound traffic at U.S. 89 and to westbound traffic near Mountain Green.
Any citations or charges in the pileup are pending further investigation, Simmons said.
After the pileup, traffic on westbound I-84 stretched at least as far as Peterson, which is about six miles, said UHP Lt. Steve Winward.
To make traffic more complicated, a separate accident at 4 p.m. closed down Ogden Canyon near Rainbow Gardens in Ogden. Another double-tanker that was routed through Ogden Canyon because of the Weber Canyon crash took a sharp turn and knocked 15 feet of jersey barriers into the Ogden River.
The canyon was closed to all but local traffic until workers could replace the barrier and not leave the road exposed directly to the river, said Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Vic Saunders.
"So we had both main arteries into Ogden closed," Simmons said.
To reach Ogden from the Morgan area, commuters had to take the North Ogden Divide or drive south to Salt Lake City and up Interstate 15, he said.
Eastbound I-84 reopened at 5 p.m. once most of the butane gas had been removed. Ogden Canyon reopened shortly after 6 p.m. Westbound I-84 reopened at 8 p.m. after wreckers removed the double-tanker and a remaining semi-truck.