51-Car Pileup Kills at Least 5 in Chile

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At least five people are killed and dozens injured in a massive 51-car pileup on a Chile highway outside Santiago. Witnesses say heavy morning fog and thick smoke may have contributed to the disaster.

At least five people were killed and more than 25 injured Wednesday in a massive 51-car pileup on a stretch of highway outside Santiago.

Authorities said those figures could rise as rescue workers continued to pull injured and trapped motorists from their vehicles.

Cleaning up the mess and assessing all the damages may take some time due to the magnitude of the incident.

[Pedro Pablo Errazuriz, Transportation Minister]:
"The number of vehicles involved is striking - 51 vehicles, of which 23 were trucks, 17 were cars, and 11 were busses. It was a massive accident and unfortunately people died in very dramatic ways."

Rescue teams initially reported three deaths on the scene but at least one more died later at a nearby hospital due to injuries sustained in the accident.

It was not clear if the fifth confirmed fatal victim died at the scene or in hospital.

At least 25 injured passengers and drivers have been rushed to local hospitals as rescue crew continued to pry survivors from the wreckage.

Police were investigating the cause of the accident which witnesses attributed to heavy morning fog and thick smoke possibly from nearby vineyards burning fires to protect their vines from frost.

Bus driver Hernan Donoso nearly collided into the mass of twisted metal.

[Hernan Donoso, Bus Driver]:
"I was driving [the bus] at the time and tried to slam all the emergency breaks I had and here we are. If I hadn't used them I wouldn't be here with you now. So we try and do the best we can. I am really sorry for what happened and for the people that are over there [the dead]."