Adopted: January 20, 1971
UNDER FOG CONDITIONS, FOLLOWED BY FIRES
NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE,
NORTH OF GATE 2
NOVEMBER 29, 1969
NTSB Number: HAR-71/03
NTIS Number: PB-198308
PDF Document (6.66 MB)
At about 7:45 a.m., November 29, 1969, in a southbound lane of the New Jersey Turnpike, and at a location about one-half mile north of Exit 2, a 1969 Mercury sedan entered sudden dense fog at about 45 miles per hour. The driver slowed to 30, but was rapidly overrun by a tractor and a tank-semitrailer of 76,340 pounds combined vehicle weight, loaded with 9,257 gallons of propane. The tank-semitrailer overturned onto its right side, and blocked both southbound lanes and the shoulder.
In rapid succession, some 10 vehicles entered the area just north of the blocked lanes, with multiple collisions between them and the trailer. Fire started near one of the passenger vehicles.
A loaded tractor-semitrailer of 57,690 pounds entered the area, struck several vehicles and then the overturned tank-semitrailer, causing a hairline crack in the shell of the propane trailer. Fire spread rapidly and destroyed nine vehicles.
Among the 29 vehicles involved, there were 12 to 15 primary collisions, and numerous minor collisions. There were six fatalities, and three serious and 15 less serious injuries. Included were six tractor-semitrailer units, 21 automobiles, and a U-Haul semitrailer. Twelve vehicles were destroyed, and most of the balance suffered damage.
The Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this multiple-vehicle accident was the penetration by vehicles into an area of dense fog where the visibility was 20 to 50 feet, together with the varying rates of speed which prevented appropriate evasive action. Contributing factors were the absence of objective indicators of the density of the fog, and inadequacy of the New Jersey Turnpike speed control system in that it failed to provide timely activation of speed reduction warning signs.