The remarkable scene was captured by trucker Arlyn Satanek of Pleasant Trucking, Inc., of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, one of those who stopped to help. Once he saw the human chain forming spontaneously, he shifted his focus.
"I just knew I had to get a picture, I wanted to remember this, because this is amazing, this is inspiring," he told TV station WPXI of Pittsburgh.
"It was just kinda like, everyone knew in that moment, we just gotta reach him, let's just join together, lock into this and let's get this guy up."
"It was awesome. I don't know any of their names. I don't remember what their faces looked like. I can't tell you anything other than, for a few minutes on a Friday night in very bad weather in a terrible situation, they pulled together, and they made a terrible situation a little bit better by helping someone out who was really in need," he told TV station WTAE of Pittsburgh.
The driver of the truck that destroyed a guard rail and left debris strewn across the highway, Matthew Collins, was injured but alive, according to Satanek.
The blizzard that brought record snowfalls to parts of the East Coast was particularly harsh to the turnpike.
Motorists were marooned as snow piled up around their vehicles on a 16-mile section of westbound Interstate 70/76 in Somerset and Bedford counties for the duration of the winter storm, which dropped more than 30 inches of snow in parts of the state.
The backup included about 500 cars, trucks and buses — some carrying the Duquesne University men's basketball team and the Temple University women's gymnastics squad.
"Given the magnitude of this event, we unquestionably need to examine the response and decision-making process undertaken," Pennsylvania Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan said in a statement of apology Jan. 25.
"We owe that to the public and especially those who were greatly inconvenienced by being stranded many hours on our system."
An 86-mile westbound stretch of the turnpike will be closed the morning of Jan. 28 to allow crews to retrieve the tractor-trailer from the Jan. 22 accident. Drivers will be forced to take a 100-mile detour between New Stanton Exit 75 and Breezewood Exit 161. The same eastbound stretch was closed Jan. 24 so crews could remove more than 500 snowbound vehicles from the westbound lanes.
Contributing: Tribune Content Agency