A little more than 24 hours after Tuesday’s crash, the interstate is back open to traffic, but investigators are still sorting out the chain reaction pile-up.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol told KFOR, several are critically injured and one person is dead because of the crash.
The deadly pile-up was caused by thick smoke from a nearby grassfire and a stopped semi, according to OHP.
The smoke from the grassfire caused zero visibility on the highway and multiple vehicles drove blindly into smoke, OHP officials say.
“There was a semi truck driver. He saw that the smoke was thick on the roadway. He started to slowly turn on his hazards and he was trying to pull over when he started to feel impacts on the back of his truck. In the middle of those impacts, another semi hit the back of him, which caused him to be broadside in the roadway,” explained Trooper Eric Foster, Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “The semi was blocked in the middle of the smoke, and so as cars were driving in the smoke, they obviously had no idea the entire road was blocked with a burning semi… Cars were entering the smoke at highway speeds and there was nowhere for them to go.”
Around eight or nine vehicles were involved, and two of them were semis.
“There were several small passenger cars in the middle of semis that were crashing. So it was very much like a blizzard-type situation where you can’t see at all in front of you with that thick smoke,” said Foster.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Forestry Service reported seven people with injuries.
Scott Douglas with the Oklahoma City Fire Department suggests to never drive into smoke.
“If you can’t see where you’re going, you need to start pulling to the side. And a lot of these grass fires have resulted in some fatal fatality car accidents… This puts out an enormous amount of smoke and it can cloud the roadways… With floodwaters, we tell people, turn around, don’t drown. Same with the smoke. Please do not drive in the smoke. You don’t know what’s in there,” said Scott Douglas, Oklahoma City Fire Department.
With some parts of Oklahoma under a burn ban, the Oklahoma City Fire Department tells us they’ve responded to 35 grassfires since Friday.
“We’ve seen a definite increase in grass fires already with the warm temperatures. We’ve had no rain with the result of that is dry vegetation,” said Douglas.
KFOR’s Chief Meteorologist Mike Morgan says there are no signs of rain in the forecast. So, the drought and fire danger are going to continue.
“The evaporation rates are slower this time of year. But when the jetstream kicks in, our South winds are going to start to crank. That’s when the drought and the fire danger will become critical,” said Mike Morgan, News 4’s Chief Meteorologist.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is still investigating the deadly crash and have not released the identity of the victim who died yet.