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Working to remove wreckage from deadly Interstate 81 pileup

The deadly crash and chain-reaction pile-up on Monday still has part of the highway closed.

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Pa. — Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County is still a mess after that massive pile-up Monday.

The northbound lanes are still closed, and the cleanup efforts are likely to continue throughout the day.

The crews have made progress clearing the interstate, but there is still a lot to do.

It's been more than 24 hours since the fatal crash happened near the Route 901 Minersville exit (116) on I-81 north.

More than 50 cars were involved in a pile-up that left 24 injured and three people dead, according to the Associated Press.

First responders across Schuylkill County worked nonstop to save stranded motorists. Workers are continuing to remove damaged vehicles from the highway.

"I don't think anybody thought it would take this long. I mean, until you actually get in and start moving things around, you know, we had to wait for hours till they put the fire out, so I don't think anybody thought it would take this long," said Trooper David Beohm.

"About 6 o'clock this morning, the fire was out, and with the wrecker companies were getting in here trying to clear the mess," said John Matz, Schuylkill County emergency management coordinator.

Putting out the fire was only half the battle. Crews have spent more time removing severely burned cars and trucks.

"The tow guys that are certified towers for the state police, they're here, and they have the dirty work to do, generally, especially when you have fire involved in a crash. It's going to be a mess," said Trooper David Beohm.

After all the vehicles are cleared, PennDOT will treat the roads currently saturated in diesel fuel from the impact.

"This was definitely from the impact of damaged vehicles. This is definitely the most severe that we've had it in a number of years."

This effort could not have been done without the help of first responders across Schuylkill County. They first dealt with victims of the crash and the fire that burned for hours, then stayed on scene in case of issues during the cleanup.

"I think the community of Schuylkill County, yeah, I was very fortunate to have, first of all, a dedicated group of volunteers in both our EMS and fire service. They certainly come together when we have disasters of this magnitude," Matz added.

According to state officials, this is one of the worst crashes in Schuylkill County in a number of years.

There is no estimate on when the northbound lanes of Interstate 18 will reopen.

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