The women died after a tractor-trailer struck them at the scene of a crashed Honda Odyssey on Interstate 81 in snowy northeastern Pennsylvania
Five women from the same family have died after being struck by a tractor-trailer in northeastern Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
According to a press release from the Pennsylvania State Police obtained by PEOPLE on Thursday, four of the women had been driving in snowy conditions in a 2022 Honda Odyssey on Interstate 81 when their vehicle “lost control and collided with a concrete divider on the west berm.”
This led to the vehicle being “disabled in the left lane.”
An Audi A6 that had been carrying “two relatives of the Odyssey occupants immediately stopped on the right shoulder.”
The two relatives then “crossed both travel lanes to speak with those in the Odyssey, who were standing in the left lane.”
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However, a northbound tractor-trailer then collided with the disabled Odyssey, causing both vehicles “to travel north until coming to a final rest on the west shoulder, both facing north.”
Three out of the four pedestrians struck sustained fatal injuries, while “two occupants inside the Odyssey at the time of impact also suffered fatal injuries.”
The women who died have been identified as Harvrist Zebari, 42, Fatma Ahmed, 71, Shahzinaz Mizouri, 56, Aleen Ameen, 19, and Berivan Zebara, 43. All five were residents of New York, who were traveling home from Washington Dulles International Airport after Umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, per a Facebook post from the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier, which the women were members of.
"It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we announce that five members of our community passed away last night in a tragic car accident," the post read. "They were returning from Umrah and were on their way back home from the airport to their families. They were all integral and beloved members of our community, and some were mothers with young children. Indeed we plan and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of all planners. Please keep the family and the deceased in your duas."
A 22-year-old man from Johnson City had been driving the Audi sedan and sustained moderate injuries, while the driver of the tractor-trailer sustained minor injuries.
Interstate 81 northbound was closed for approximately four hours to enable the emergency response and investigation efforts.
“I wish everybody would just stay safe out there. You know it’s bad, especially if the coroners are there right now. My heart goes out to them and their family,” Janet Pohoda, who drove down the same stretch of highway hours later, told local ABC affiliate WNEP.
Urging drivers to take extra caution when driving in the snowy conditions, she added, “It’s sad, but I would tell them to get off the road for tonight until the roads are in better condition, you know, cleared up more.”
The Pennsylvania State Police are still investigating the contributing factors to the crash.
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