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Amber Alert

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Amarillo man dies in massive Texas Panhandle pileup

A 62-year-old man was identified as the person killed in a massive chain-reaction wreck in the Texas Panhandle that left more than a dozen people injured and temporarily shut down Interstate 40.

The man, whose name was not being released pending family notification, was an Amarillo resident, police Sgt. Greg Fisher said Sunday. The man was in a car with his wife, who was in stable condition at a hospital following Saturday's pileup.

Investigators say winds hastened around mid-morning Saturday, whiting out visibility for motorists and contributing to the 30 second chain-reaction accident that stretched for about a quarter to a half mile.

It started when a tractor-trailer lost control and flipped over, blocking the portion where I-40 and U.S. Highway 287 split. At least four other semi-trailers were unable to stop in the icy conditions and slammed into each other. Another tractor-trailer jacknifed and yet another overturned. Several cars then crashed into the wreckage, leaving people in at least four vehicles trapped, Fisher said.

"We're not really sure how many cars, probably in excess of 40 cars and in excess of 20 semi-trailers," he said on Sunday.

At least 16 people went to the hospital. Several have since been released but at least one had life threatening injuries, Fisher said. Hospital officials were still trying to gauge Sunday how many patients were injured in the pileup.

One officer responding to the scene was injured when another vehicle sideswiped his patrol car, which was parked in a ditch.

Passers-by helped the injured, which included children, by opening presents to provide warmer clothing and loading people into their cars to help them keep warm, officials said.

"We don't know who they were but it was very nice to see," Fisher said.