SALEM, Ore. — Police have arrested a semi truck driver for DUII and reckless driving following a multi-vehicle crash that killed seven people and injured four others on Interstate 5, south of Salem, on the afternoon of May 18, Oregon State Police said.
Officers responded just after 2 p.m. to a report of a three-vehicle crash on I-5 northbound at milepost 241 near the Santiam River Rest Area in Marion County, about halfway between Albany and Salem.
A semi truck traveling northbound on I-5 ran off the road on the east shoulder and hit a passenger van carrying 11 people, OSP said. The van was pushed into another semi truck, which was parked.
"The force of the crash caused extreme damage to the passenger van," OSP said in a news release on the afternoon o May 19.
Six people who were in the van died at the scene, and another was transported to the hospital by Life Flight helicopter where they died. The victims were all farmworkers, the state's farmworkers union said on May 20, and police released their names on May 22.
The driver of the parked semi truck was not injured.
PHOTOS: I-5 crash near Albany
OSP said the 52-year-old driver of the semi truck that was at-fault was medically evaluated and later arrested. Lincoln Clayton Smith of California was taken to the Marion County Jail on charges of DUII, reckless driving, manslaughter and assault.
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 Democrat-Herald.
The van appeared to have been crushed between the trucks, a witness told the Statesman Journal.
"Judging by the damage, it looked like the van was sandwiched," Adrian Gonzalez said. "It got hit very hard."
Two Life Flight helicopters landed and took people away while paramedics treated others on the ground, Gonzalez told the paper.
KGW spoke to a semi truck driver who said he was there when first responders got to the scene. He was driving from Alberta, Canada to Nevada.
"I've driven for quite awhile," Phil Price said. "I've seen a lot of fatalities on the road... you think about the people's families. It's a sad day for those people."
The northbound lanes of I-5 due at the crash site were closed for several hours as police investigated. It took about five hours to reopen one of the lanes. All of them were back open by Friday morning.
The on-scene investigation will likely take about 24 hours to conclude, police said, and more information will be released after the families of the victims have been notified.
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