- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A series of crashes involving at least 50 vehicles Wednesday killed three people and seriously injured a state trooper on a snowy two-mile stretch of the Ohio Turnpike.

A flurry of accidents midway between Toledo and Cleveland blocked the toll road in both directions beginning in the early afternoon.

Emergency workers were having a difficult time responding because of the road conditions and traffic backups, said Staff Lt. Anne Ralston, a spokeswoman with the State Highway Patrol.

The crashes happened in the turnpike’s eastbound lanes near the city of Clyde. Video from the Sandusky Register shows at least a dozen tractor-trailers smashed together near an overpass.

A state trooper investigating one of the initial accidents suffered serious injuries when another driver slid into him and pinned the trooper between two vehicles, Ralston said.

Trooper Andrew Clouser of the patrol’s Milan post was in serious but stable condition after being treated at a Toledo Hospital for injuries to his legs and abdomen, she said. Clouser, 29, has been with the patrol just over a year.

The patrol was hoping to release on Thursday the names of the people who died in the crashes.

Another series of pileups about 10 miles to the east shut down the turnpike’s westbound lanes near Sandusky.

Early Wednesday evening, the turnpike reopened one eastbound lane, with traffic starting to move slowly just over four hours after the first in a series of crashes.

Authorities were warning drivers to stay off the turnpike in Erie and Sandusky counties because of crashes brought on by heavy and blowing snow.

Despite the big backups, turnpike officials decided against diverting stuck drivers onto adjacent routes because both of those counties had ordered non-emergency drivers to say off the roads, said Adam Greenslade, a spokesman for the turnpike.

Many drivers on the turnpike also were unlikely to be familiar with the secondary roads in the area, he said.

Heavy snow and stiff winds contributed to tough driving conditions throughout the day across northern Ohio.

Another afternoon crash on the turnpike involving an overturned truck blocked the road’s westbound lanes in Lorain County, Greenslade said.

About a dozen counties across the top edge of the state from the Indiana state line to Sandusky told residents not to drive at times during the day.

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