A 55-year-old woman driver was killed yesterday after a freak curtain of fog settled over the Tejo river near Lisbon, provoking a 17-car pile-up on the A12 approaching Vasco da Gama bridge.
Anyone who was in the area at the time will bear witness to the extraordinary haze that enveloped traffic on Wednesday.
Visibility was down to a few feet, yet at the time, the sun was shining.
The eerie phenomenon – in a week when climate change and pollution were in the world news – is believed to have been the direct cause of the accident that claimed the life of Maria Fátima Forreta, a technician at LNEC, the national laboratory for civil engineering.
The car at the front of the pile-up had slowed, due to the fog, causing the taxi behind it to go into its boot, followed by a motorcyclist, a bus and multiple cars.
The motorcyclist only escaped being crushed by the bus as he was projected over the car into which he had collided, reports national tabloid Correio da Manhã, affirming the scene was one of total chaos.
In all 15 people sustained injuries – nine of them serious enough to be taken to hospital.
Tragically, it was only as the mangled wreckage of vehicles was being separated that rescue workers discovered the dead woman’s car.
“We cannot work out why we hadn’t seen it before,” Civil Protection district commander Rui Costa told the paper. “Particularly as there were so many people in the area. It was in the middle of everything else, and it was only as vehicles were being removed that we were able to get close.”
The dead woman’s body took three hours to be cut out of her vehicle, adds CM, and the motorway was closed to traffic on all three lanes until 2pm.
UPDATE: Diário de Notícias reports that the Interior Minister has ordered an inquiry into how Maria Fátima Forreta could have been missed in the aftermath of the crash, and why it took so long for her to receive medical assistance.