SEATTLE -- The Washington State Patrol says a speeding driver, following too close, is to blame for the freeway collision that started four pileups in the Friday morning commute in Seattle, backing up traffic 14 miles from Boeing Field.
Trooper George Englebright says at least one driver and probably more will be cited.
Five people were taken to hospitals, including a 25-year-old man who was unconscious and in critical condition when he was cut out of wreckage on Interstate 5, the Seattle Fire Department said.
About 30 people were evaluated for bumps, scrapes and pains, but didn't require an emergency trip to the hospital, spokesman Kyle Moore said.
The patrol says there were three chain-reaction crashes involving 12 cars in the northbound lanes of I-5 at Boeing Field. That backed up traffic to Federal Way.
It happened in an area where traffic often slows suddenly because of congestion.
"This area will go from 60 to 40 in a second and people aren't looking far enough ahead," said Washington State Patrol Trooper George Englebright. "That's typically what happens."
The mishap began about 6:30 a.m. with a five-car pileup on the left side of the northbound lanes. It was quickly followed by a four-car collision on the right side by drivers trying to avoid it. A three-car pileup followed in the backup, Englebright said.
"On top of this whole mess there's another five-car smash-up on the other side" of the freeway, he said, probably a case of drivers distracted by the aid cars and lights on the other side. That crash about 7:30 a.m. blocked only one lane, but slowed southbound cars.
Freeway traffic was moving again by 8:30 a.m. in both directions.
At one time the fire department believed there were 20 injuries and called in five private ambulances to help city aid cars, Moore said. "It was a fluid scene."
The number of pileups at the same spot was unusual but they were typical of chain-reaction collisions in heavy traffic, Englebright said. "Some people avoided it; some people didn't," he said.