Chain reaction

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Jaylene Mortensen fills out an accident report Tuesday amid the wreckage on the northbound lanes of US 95 south of Kathleen Avenue in Coeur d'Alene.

COEUR d'ALENE - Multiple people were transported for medical care after a 13-vehicle accident on U.S. 95 on Tuesday afternoon, caused by a Penske truck that plowed through multiple lanes.

The truck heading northbound rammed several cars near the Kathleen Avenue intersection at roughly 2:40 p.m., the struck cars crashing into more vehicles to the side and front.

"It looks like it was a chain reaction," said Lt. Chris Schenck with Idaho State Police, as he glanced at the uneven line of crumpled and dented cars on the highway after the accident. "I haven't heard of this many vehicles in an accident in quite some time."

The section of U.S. 95 was closed off for roughly two hours, as officers with EMS, Coeur d'Alene police, ISP and Coeur d'Alene fire helped victims on the scene.

There were no fatalities, Schenck confirmed. Several people were carted away in ambulances, he said, though at mid afternoon he didn't know the total number or extent of injuries.

Michaela Olinger's Kia Spectra sat on the side of the road, the rear half crumpled like a tin can.

Olinger's was the first car struck by the truck, the 18-year-old said.

"At the very last second I saw him coming up and thought, 'Oh God, it's not slowing down,'" the Coeur d'Alene girl said, adding that the collision spun her car off the road.

Although Olinger wasn't injured, she said her friend, Chelsea Stillman, in the passenger seat had slammed her head and was bleeding. Olinger hadn't heard any news since Stillman was ferried to the hospital.

"I'm really worried about my friend," she said.

Bob Grimm had been in the northbound turn lane, he said, when he realized the Penske truck had smashed into vehicles a few cars back and was still coming on strong.

"It sounded like a train coming," said the Coeur d'Alene man, whose Toyota Tundra was only dented on the side by another car.

To the right of Grimm's Toyota, a maroon Chevy Malibu was smashed on both ends. It was facing the wrong direction.

"That little red car was airborne," Grimm said of how he saw the car fly through the air. "The truck driver, she just missed me."

He saw the Penske driver, Pamela Gentis, 56, of Reno, Nev., loaded into an ambulance, he added.

Kelly Glenn of Coeur d'Alene, whose Ford Expedition was one of the last cars hit, called herself one of the lucky ones.

She had watched the yellow truck blaze into cars behind her, she said.

"It crossed all the lanes of traffic. It didn't stop until there was nowhere else to go," said Glenn, who wasn't injured after her truck was struck from behind. "It was like one of those action movies, where you see a truck barreling through all the cars."

Jaylene Mortensen said that seconds before the accident, she glanced into the rearview mirror to check on her baby in the back seat.

"I saw this yellow truck coming toward me," the Hayden woman said. "It didn't look like it was slowing down at all."

Her Dodge Ram was only scraped on the side, she said, but another car ended up lodged beneath her truck.

"Luckily mine was the larger vehicle," she said after she carefully steered her car out of the wreckage.

The rear wheels of the Penske truck were "still spinning" after it stopped, Mortensen added.

"It didn't hit the brakes at all," she said.

Her infant was wailing afterward, she said, but both mother and daughter were unscathed.

"We didn't even get whiplashed," Mortensen said. "Others were not so lucky."

The crash is still under investigation and further information will be released as it is compiled, police said.

Bob Grimm walks between the wreckage of a 13-car pileup Tuesday as he waits to have his truck moved from the scene on the northbound lanes of US 95 south of Kathleen Avenue in Coeur d'Alene. The accident shutdown the section of highway for more than two hours as the scene was investigated by Idaho State Police and vehicles were removed.

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