The driver of a semitruck that slammed into a passenger van on Interstate 5 in western Oregon, killing 7 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 driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, manslaughter and assault, police said.
Smith was being held in Marion County Jail, He had not yet made a court appearance, and it was not clear if he had an attorney.
Two semitrucks and the van were involved in the Thursday afternoon crash near Albany in an agricultural area in the Willamette Valley.
The truck left the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 on Thursday and hit the van as it was parked on the side of the freeway, according to police. The van was then 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 were reopened Thursday night, state transportation officials said.
Bodies were covered in plastic in a nearby field, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported. 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.
Witness Adrian Gonzalez told the Salem Statesman Journal that two Life Flight helicopters landed and took people away while paramedics treated people on the ground.
“Judging by the damage, it looked like the van was sandwiched,” he 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 in total.
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.
Another crash in 1988, also near Albany on I-5, killed 7 people and injured 37 more. Two infants were among those killed in the fiery 23-vehicle pileup.
Albany lies between Salem and Eugene and is about 70 miles south of Portland. I-5 is the main north-south interstate highway on the West Coast.