The driver of a semi-truck that slammed into a passenger van on Interstate 5 in western Oregon, killing seven people in one of the state’s deadliest crashes in recent years, was arrested Friday on suspicion of manslaughter, DUI and other charges, police said.
Eleven people were in the van when it was struck, authorities said. Six people died at the scene, one more died after being airlifted to a hospital, and four were injured, according to Oregon State Police.
Lincoln Clayton Smith, 52, of North Highlands, California, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants, and reckless driving, police said.
Smith was being held in Marion County Jail. He had not yet made a court appearance, and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney.
Two semi-trucks and the van were involved in the crash Thursday afternoon near Albany, in an agricultural area in the Willamette Valley.
The truck left the northbound lanes of I-5 and hit the van as it was parked on the roadside, according to police.
The van then was pushed into the back of another truck parked in front of it.
The northbound lanes of I-5 were closed for hours as experts investigated, but the routes reopened Thursday night, state transportation officials said.
Bodies were seen covered in plastic in a nearby field after the crash, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported.
Should this truck driver face stiffer charges?
Police and fire officials put a blue tarp on the wrecked van and placed a barrier near one of the trucks to block the view of the scene, according to the news outlet.
Life Flight Network confirmed that one of its emergency medical helicopters transported one patient to a Salem-area hospital.
Witness Adrian Gonzalez told the Salem Statesman Journal the van was mangled by the force of the impact.
“Judging by the damage, it looked like the van was sandwiched,” Gonzalez said. “It got hit very hard.”
The crash is one of the deadliest in Oregon in recent years.
A head-on collision on a remote road in Harney County in eastern Oregon in August 2018 killed a family of seven, including five young children. Eight people died overall.
In December 2012, nine people died after a tour bus careened on an icy Interstate 84 and crashed through a guardrail, plunging several hundred feet down a steep embankment.
The bus was carrying about 40 people when the accident occurred in an area near Pendleton called Deadman Pass.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.