“I saw cars on top of cars,” Carroll said. “In some spots there was so much heavy damage and in other areas you could see where people had veered over onto the grass shoulder at the last minute to escape the impact. Those were the lucky ones.”
He said the couple in the Chevy Suburban were not so lucky.
“The semi tractor-trailer was sitting right on top of that SUV,” Carroll said. “At first I didn’t realize that was a vehicle. I thought it was part of the 18-wheeler. I don’t know how anyone could have survived that.”
Carroll said 80 to 90 people were taken to hospitals, with 10 to 12 of those in serious to critical condition. He said 140 to 150 vehicles were involved in the pileup. Authorities said a crash on the eastbound side of the highway led to other accidents in a dangerous chain reaction. There were multiple crashes on the westbound side of the highway as well.
Interstate 10’s eastbound lanes were reopened Thursday evening after being closed for more than eight hours.
Carroll said he will long be haunted by what he saw in the fog on that holiday morning, but also touched by the Good Samaritans he witnessed.
“This was the most-traveled day of the year,” Carroll said. “Part of the problem was that there were so many vehicles on the road. It was all families. Grandparents, grandkids — everyone traveling to see family. But that helped us; it really did.”
He said many people who survived the calamity became first responders.
“It was people helping people,” Carroll said. “We were overwhelmed, and I saw strangers sitting and holding, putting pressure on people that were injured. It was really amazing.”
Carroll said he had never seen anything like the widespread accident in his quarter-century of police work.
“And I just hope to God it was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said.