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Va. Crash May Have Killed Several

January 3, 1999

LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Several people were reportedly killed and more than 20 others were injured in a multi-vehicle crash Sunday morning on an icy stretch of highway.

Few details were available Sunday evening, but a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman who refused to give her name said there were ``multiple fatalities″ after the crash on Interstate 81 just south of Lexington.

State police declined to comment on the reported deaths pending notification of relatives, but police dispatcher S. Thompson said the wreck involved eight tractor-trailers and seven cars, including the vehicle of a trooper who had been working on an earlier accident.

Among the injured was trucker Billy Freeman, who was driving from Los Angeles to Boston in a tractor-trailer loaded with lemons when they saw the first accident and stopped. Moments later, other trucks crashed into the back of their rig, overturning it and knocking it off the road. Freeman suffered minor injuries.

``We were coming off a hill and it was slick but we came to a stop,″ he said. ``Then, after that _ Slam! Bang! I thank God I’m here because there were some people who did not make it.″

At least 16 injured people were taken to Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington, hospital spokeswoman Beverly Fertig said. She said six people were taken to hospitals in Roanoke and Charlottesville. Their conditions were not immediately available.

The accidents left I-81′s northbound lanes closed and backed up traffic at least seven miles. The highway was expected to remain closed for hours, Thompson said. Side roads also were backed up for miles.

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