A semi-truck driver involved in Thursday’s violent crash on an Oregon highway that left seven people dead has been slapped with DUI and manslaughter charges, police said.
California resident Lincoln Smith, 52, was driving his 18-wheeler in the northbound lane of Interstate 5 between Salem and Albany around 2 p.m. when he smashed into the back of a passenger van — a white Ford Econoline — with 11 people inside, according to Oregon State Police.
The collision forced the van into the trailer of another 18-wheeler.
Six people who were in the van were declared dead at the scene, cops said. Another victim was transported via helicopter but died on the way to the hospital.
The remaining four people in the van sustained various injuries and were taken by ambulance to local hospitals. Police have not released their conditions.
The driver of the other semi truck was uninjured.
The victims, who have not yet been identified by police, were all adults, police said.
The van was believed to be transporting agricultural workers who work for a local labor contract company, according to police.
Smith was transported from the scene for medical treatment. He was subsequently arrested and booked at the Marion County Jail.
He was arraigned on Friday in Marion County for charges including manslaughter, DUI, reckless driving and assault, The Statesman Journal reported.
According to charging documents obtained by the newspaper, he was under the influence of a controlled substance and an inhalant.
The Marion County District Attorney’s Office said Smith admitted to using “speed” on Wednesday and was found in possession of methamphetamine and inhalants.
Smith has a lengthy criminal history, with at least 17 prior arrests as well as nine convictions for a slew of crimes including burglary and providing false information, Deputy District Attorney David Wilson told the paper.
He is scheduled to appear in court next on May 30. Judge Lindsay Partridge did not set bail.
Photos from the scene show the mangled wreckage of the white van. Straw sun hats and shovels could be seen among the debris.
Oregon’s farmworker union, PCUN, told the Statesman Journal in a statement that it has been in contact with some of the victims’ families
“PCUN, and our members, would like to send our sincere condolences to the families and the workers impacted by this tragedy,” executive director Reyna Lopez said. “At this time, families are asking for safer roads for workers commuting after a hard day’s work.”
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