Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher called Thursday's crash one of the worse he's ever seen. Witnesses echoed his remarks, describing the crash site as a "war zone" with dozens of emergency vehicles and personnel.

"I still can't get over the smell. The smell was just so bad," said Michael Caraway.

For Michael Caraway of Ooltewah, there's things about the crash that he'll never forget. He witnessed it and rushed to try and help but the fire was too big.

"I wanted to try and help but the fire was so hot there was nothing nobody could do," he said. "Looking at any of those, it's hard to believe anybody survived it."

Caraway and witnesses like Arthur Tucker watched helplessly.

"One second and you're gone, one second," Tucker said. "It happened really fast. You could see a bunch of cars spinning, one flipped, then you could see all this smoke and fire."

It took 12 hours for police to reopen the stretch of interstate. At one point, a drone circled overhead to get aerials of the crash and assist investigators reconstruct the scene.