WEBSTER CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Eight people were hospitalized -- two in serious condition -- after chain-reaction collisions Monday involving nearly two-dozen vehicles on U.S. Highway 20 in north-central Iowa, and authorities were blaming the pileups on poor visibility due to fog and thick, black smoke billowing from burning hay bales nearby.

Part of the highway was closed for several hours after the two separate incidents that happened about 7:30 a.m. just east of Webster City, according to the Iowa State Patrol. The four-lane highway was littered with crushed vehicles, including several semitrailers.

Patrol spokesman Sgt. Scott Bright said the combination of fog and smoke from the hay bales a farmer was burning at the time, cutting visibility to zero.

"Thick smoke came across the highway. One (driver) started slamming on the brakes and that's when the collisions occurred," he said. "... Smoke contributed to most of it. The combination of both is not a good thing to drive in."

Bright said he did not know how many hay bales were involved in the control burn or whether the farmer had a permit to burn.

Bright said the pileups began in the westbound lanes and then the eastbound lanes as the smoke drifted across the highway. He said 22 vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction collision in the westbound crash, with seven others on the eastbound said.

He said two people were in serious condition. Six others suffered minor injuries.

The highway reopened about noon.


Information from: KCCI-TV, http://www.kcci.com

Copyright 2012 The AP.

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