On Interstate 95 (I-95) near Fairfield, Connecticut, two consecutive accidents occurred within 11 minutes in the early morning hours of January 17, 2003. About 4:50 a.m., a 1996 Freightliner tractor flatbed semitrailer, loaded with five portable compressor units, was involved in a nonfatal multivehicle accident. The truck was traveling in a work zone on I-95 north, near milepost 26.6, at a driver-estimated speed of 50 mph, when it slid out of control approximately 1,150 feet south of the exit 24 southbound off-ramp. The vehicle entered the median, overturned and overrode the portable concrete barrier, and collided with a southbound 1997 Dodge Avenger sedan. A southbound 2001 Freightliner tractor/refrigerated trailer combination unit struck the Dodge sedan and then struck the 1996 Freightliner tractor. The three vehicles came to rest blocking the southbound lanes of the highway. During the accident sequence, the flatbed semitrailer separated from the 1996 Freightliner tractor. The semitrailer came to rest perpendicular to the roadway, straddling the portable concrete barrier and partially obstructing the left lane of I-95 north.
At 5:01 a.m., a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility vehicle—occupied by nine students from Yale University and traveling north in the left lane—collided with and underrode the left side corner of the 1996 Freightliner tractor flatbed semitrailer. Following the impact, the Chevrolet disengaged from the semitrailer and entered the median, skidded along the concrete barrier, and came to rest about 450 feet northeast of the semitrailer. The driver and three passengers in the Chevrolet were fatally injured. The surviving occupants were seriously injured.
Witnesses reported that at the time of the accidents, light snow was falling, the roads were wet and icy, and snow covered the roadway shoulders.