The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Joplin Metro

October 8, 2008

I-44 chain-reaction collisions kill two, injure seven

By Jeff Lehr

jlehr@joplinglobe.com

A sudden patch of dense fog may have contributed to a deadly series of collisions early Wednesday on Interstate 44 southeast of Joplin, taking the lives of two drivers and injuring several other travelers.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said the series of collisions shortly before 7 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of I-44 between the 13.4- and 13.6-mile markers culminated in a fiery and fatal pileup of about seven vehicles.

State troopers said the series of accidents involved a total of 16 vehicles: nine tractor-trailers, a large construction crane truck, four passenger cars and two pickup trucks. Five area fire departments and several emergency medical crews responded to the scene about a mile east of the exits for Missouri Highway 249 and U.S. Highway 71 South.

The driver of a car that ran up under one semitrailer and the driver of a second truck rig that ran into the rear of the same trailer from behind were pronounced dead at the scene. Emergency medical personnel took seven people to area hospitals, state troopers said.

The accidents shut down the eastbound and westbound lanes of the interstate for about two hours. The eastbound lanes remained closed for most of the day. A single eastbound lane was reopened about 6:30 p.m.

The identities of those killed were being withheld Wednesday night pending notification of their families. Information on the identities and conditions of those injured also had yet to be released.

“Were looking at at least three separate accidents,” Sgt. Mike Watson of the state patrol told the Globe in midafternoon.

Watson said at that time that it might take another day before crash-scene investigators could reconstruct the accidents well enough to release a report detailing exactly what happened. But he told the Globe earlier in the day that heavy fog may have contributed to an initial wreck involving two tractor-trailers. Moments later, a large crane truck apparently swerved onto the left shoulder of the eastbound lanes and struck a guardrail, he said.

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