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Five Dead in Pileup on Arkansas Interstate

January 9, 1995

MENIFEE, Ark. (AP) _ Eight tractor-trailer rigs and two other vehicles collided early today in dense fog, triggering explosions and killing five people.

A smoldering pile of metal blocked both lanes of Interstate 40 when the fog lifted this morning. All identifying marks had been burned from the trucks’ bodies.

``We were coming down the road and all of a sudden we ran into a wall of fog,″ said Walter Burns, a truck driver from Dublin, Va. He managed to stop short of the wreckage, and he and his passenger, John Oakes, tried to rescue the victims.

``When we got out, all we could hear was screaming and hollering,″ Oakes said. The two took the truck’s fire extinguisher to the wreckage in a futile attempt to help.

``It was like taking a jacknife to a machine-gun fight,″ Burns said. ``There was just nothing we could do.″

Four of the trucks were carrying livestock, and many cattle were killed or injured. Crews with a backhoe buried the dead ones in nearby fields, and some surviving animals limped along the side of the road.

The five dead people were from the tractor-trailers and a passenger van found in the middle of the wreckage, police said. The motor home was not severely damaged.

``One of the drivers said it was foggy last night. He topped the hill, he hit his breaks and somebody clipped him. That started the chain reaction,″ Conway County Sheriff Carl Poteete said.

An explosion set cans of paint from one of the trucks on fire. Rolls of newsprint still smoldered eight hours after the 2 a.m. pileup 30 miles northwest of Little Rock.

``It’s the biggest mess you’ve ever seen,″ state police spokesman Wayne Jordan said.

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