A chain reaction accident on a highway in southeastern Missouri on Thursday morning killed six people and resulted in a rally of an estimated 135 vehicles, closing the highway for hours in both directions, authorities said.
Heavy fog obscured the view of Interstate 57 at the time of the crash, including several tractor-trailers and several vehicles set ablaze, said Sgt. Jeff Kinder of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“Looks like a vehicle stopped in front of someone and set off a chain reaction,” Sergeant Kinder said.
The first crash occurred around 8 a.m. near Charleston, Mo., on I-57 southbound. The collisions that followed migrated across the grass median to oncoming traffic heading north, closing the highway and ultimately creating an accident that “extended probably half a mile,” Sergeant Kinder added.
Footage of the scene showed crumpled, charred vehicles with plumes of billowing black smoke and a long backlog of trucks and cars. Tractor-trailers were crushed and smashed together, their contents emptied among the gnarled metal on the highway.
Emergency services and crews continued to clear the highway, the Missouri Department of Transportation said on Twitter.
The emergency response involved at least 20 agencies, more than 20 ambulances, two air ambulances and help from local agricultural producers and crop spreaders to control the fires that had developed, Mississippi County Sheriff’s Britton H. Ferrell said in a statement.
Most vehicles, including charred ones, have been removed from the accident scene, Mr Kinder said, adding that the Highway Patrol is clearing the remaining cargo with the aim of opening the highway before midnight.
Victims have been identified and two families have been notified, Mississippi County coroner Terry Parker said Thursday evening. He said salvage work had been completed on site.
Vimal Patel reporting contributed.