Crash kills nine on Oklahoma turnpike

Monday, June 29, 2009

A crash has killed nine people on a turnpike (toll road) northeast of Miami, Oklahoma. The accident occurred on Friday when a semi-trailer truck struck a line of stationary traffic from behind on the Will Rogers Turnpike near state lines with Missouri and Kansas.

It looks like a war zone. There’s mangled metal everywhere. There’s debris, fluids, dead bodies.

Traffic had come to a standstill as a result of an earlier accident eastbound when the accident occurred. The road has a speed limit of 75 mph, and it is currently thought that the truck driver made no attempts to stop his vehicle. He was hospitalised. A spokesperson for the nearby Freeman Hospital said eight people were treated there, and it is reported a twelve-year-old girl is among the injured.

The girl had to be cut free from the wreckage of her car, and was taken to the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City where she was in critical condition. Her parents were both killed. The accident occurred at 1p.m., and it was four hours before any eastbound lanes re-opened, leaving vehicles stranded in high temperatures and prompting emergency services to distribute water to motorists.

Also killed are an Oklahoma City family of four and a seven-year-old Texas girl and her father. The mother from that family is in a critical condition, and another woman was also killed in the same car.

Lt. George Brown of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol described the scene: “It looks like a war zone. There’s mangled metal everywhere. There’s debris, fluids, dead bodies.” A man who has worked thirty years as a tow truck driver said the crash was “the worst one I’ve ever worked.”

A number of other smaller incidents occurred in the area afterwards. At least three accidents were caused by vehicles slowing down in response to the crash, and four cars collided with each other westbound. No-one was killed in the other accidents.

It took hours to locate the last fatality, who was in a car pinned under the semi-trailer. Two tow trucks were required to separate the vehicles. A total of seven vehicles were involved, including three cars which were beneath the truck by the end of the accident sequence.

A criminal investigation has been launched. A blood sample has been taken from the truck driver, 76-year-old Donald Creed, who has been released from hospital after treatment. There is no indication alcohol was a factor in the accident.