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UPDATE: Deadly Crash on I-40 at White River Bridge in Prairie County under Investigation

Several vehicles were involved in Thursday morning accident that shutdown the freeway in both directions.
PRAIRIE COUNTY, AR - Arkansas State Police say one person is dead and at least a dozen others injured in a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 40.

It happened around 6 o'clock Thursday morning near the White River Bridge in Prairie County in a construction zone, which caused some major congestion for drivers. State Police shut down both lanes of the interstate for more than 9 hours. The accident caused a chain reaction of multiple vehicles rear ending each other. Even hours after the first crash, drivers stuck 20 miles west of the accident scene still sat parked on the interstate.

Spokesperson for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Danny Straessle says any construction zone is dangerous, but this particular section is a trouble spot fro drivers. "What you have is traffic going in both directions on one side of the interstate, so there's somewhat of a choke point when the traffic has to go from one side of the interstate to the other."

The corridor has been under the construction for nearly 2 years. Barney Castello is traveling from Tulsa to Memphis and does this drive often. "It always seems to be something backing up traffic through here for whatever reason. It's always slow, but never like this."

Albert Pantaleo is driving to Canada and is not impressed with how the State Police handled the accident. "They did a lousy job redirecting people. They should have put it way ahead of where the accident happened."

Straessle says the area has plenty of signs and indicators alerting drivers of the construction zone. He says drivers need to pay extra close attention. "Merge early. Don't wait until you get to the zone to merge because by then everybody is trying to dart in at the last minute, and that creates problems as well."

Problems like waiting for hours for traffic to clear after an accident happens. Pantaleo says drivers are losing their tempers and are on edge. "I'm sorry, I travel a lot in the U.S. and this was uncalled for."

Straessle says congestion relief is in sight. Crews expect to complete construction before the summer. "In the end we'll have a great section of interstate to travel on."

Arkansas State Police say metal debris in the roadway caused the original crash. State Police did divert traffic onto alternate routes. Both lanes of I-40 reopened around 4:30 Thursday afternoon.

State Police say air and ground ambulances took those injured in the crash to Stuttgart and Little Rock hospitals. The extent of their injuries is unknown.

Previous version:
Interstate 40 eastbound in Prairie County has reopened after a deadly morning crash that injured 12 other people.

The westbound lanes are still closed as of 4:40 this afternoon. Drivers should exit at Brinkley and take Highway 70 if headed west.

The Arkansas State Police (ASP) is investigating the accident that involved several vehicles this morning accident in the vicinity of the White River Bridge.

The ASP says troopers were dispatched to the scene in the eastbound lane just before eight o'clock this morning.

Air and ground ambulances took the injured to Stuttgart and Little Rock hospitals.

Based on initial witness statements, State Troopers preliminarily suspect metal debris from the roadway had become airborne and impacted a vehicle which then stopped in the single lane of eastbound traffic, causing traffic from the rear of the first vehicle to slow and stop. 

Seconds later a commercial carrier truck traveling behind the stopped vehicles impacted the blocked roadway causing a chain reaction crash.

Both east and westbound traffic along I-40 through the area has been diverted to nearby state and U.S. highways to allow for the crash scene to be cleared and the investigation to continue.

As of 3:30 this afternoon, troopers still at the crash scene were not anticipating the highway to re-open to traffic for another hour.

Reported earlier:
The Arkansas State Police (ASP) confirms at least one death in an accident on I-40 in Prairie County earlier this morning.

It's not yet clear in which direction of travel that accident occurred.

Earlier this morning, the ASP had reported a second accident in the area had closed the freeway in both directions.

The accident in the westbound lanes around 9:45. The Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department says an air evacuation for at least one accident victim was in progress around 10 o'clock.

Drivers were being rerouted onto Highway 70 at the Brinkley exit.

The first accident happened around six o'clock in the eastbound lanes at the White River Bridge, sending Arkansas State Police troopers and ambulances to the scene.
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