Officials said fog and smoke from marsh wildfires created zero visibility in early Thursday morning.
More than 50 people were injured, four of them critically, in a massive 41-vehicle pileup Thursday in southeast Texas, authorities said.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said the pileup began shortly before 5:30 a.m. when a collision on foggy east-bound state Highway 73 in LaBelle, near Beaumont, started a chain reaction.
Rescue agencies ran out of ambulances after all 20 of the area's units rushed to the scene, and crews began transporting victims on shuttle buses with a paramedic on board, NBC station KPRC of Houston reported.
All told, 54 people were injured, authorities said. Four were reported in critical condition.
Officials said fog and smoke from marsh wildfires created zero visibility in the area.
Before the collisions, eastbound traffic appeared to be moving about 70 mph despite the heavy fog and limited visibility, state troopers told The Beaumont Enterprise. Drivers in the other direction apparently were moving more slowly, they said.
Investigators said some of the cars left no skid marks, indicating their drivers didn't see the stopped vehicles until they crashed.
"I was driving straight down this road, and all of a sudden … just smoke," Jesus Gonzalez told KPRC, describing "a wall of fog, flying objects, a little bit of everything."
Gonzalez and his friends, who weren't hurt, jumped out of their car to help others and were credited with carrying two people to safety.
"They had a gas leak in their car, so we definitely had to get them out," said one of them, Basilio Renovato.
Jefferson County sheriff's Deputy Rod Carroll said the accidents were spread over more than three-quarters of a mile. More than a dozen other vehicles skidded off into the median but didn't hit anything, authorities said.
"Thank God it was before the school buses started running," Carroll told KPRC.
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