ELMWOOD, Okla. (AP) — An SUV veered across a highway median in the Oklahoma Panhandle early Wednesday and slammed head-on into an oncoming van full of men headed to work at a Texas meatpacking plant, killing both drivers and five of the six van passengers, authorities said.
The 2012 Chevy Suburban was moving fast and passed a couple of trucks on U.S. Highway 412 just before it crossed the center line and collided with a 2003 Ford van near Elmwood, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said. She said investigators were trying to determine whether the SUV was speeding.
“It was pretty horrific,” Randolph said. “The lieutenant I talked to said he’d worked in Beaver County for 24 years, and he’s never seen anything like that. When you have that many bodies involved in a crash, it’s terrible.”
All seven of the men in the van were from Liberal, Kan., and were headed to work at the Booker Packing Co. plant a few miles south of the Texas border in Booker, Randolph said.
The Highway Patrol said late Wednesday the van with five passengers was being driven eastbound by Alejandro Mejia Lopez on U.S. 412 when a 2012 Chevy Suburban driven westbound by Bobby Carroll Matthews crossed the center line and hit the van head-on.
Killed along with the 28-year-old Lopez were Julio Ramos Perez, 25; Rigoberto Toj Garcia, 24; Julio Cesar Don Juan Morino, 27; Sebastian Sucuquai Saquic, 21; and Juan Lorenzo, 56. Francisco Diaz, 33, was listed Wednesday night in critical condition at an Amarillo, Texas, hospital where he was airlifted.
Police said they do not know what caused the 55-year-old Matthews, of Woodward, Okla., to lose control of his vehicle.
Elmwood, in Beaver County, is less than 10 miles from the Texas state line.
Both lanes of the highway were temporarily closed but reopened about five hours later.