BUCHANAN COUNTY, Mo. -- A husband and wife are dead and nine others hospitalized following a multi-vehicle crash Thursday morning on Interstate 29. It happened just before 5 a.m., two miles south of St. Joseph, Mo., and shut down the northbound lanes for several hours.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has identified the two victims as a 43-year-old Asian man and his 37-year-old wife, also of Asian descent. The Highway Patrol says the man killed was driving a 15-passenger van with 9 others onboard. Troopers say the van driver failed to see traffic stopped in both lanes of northbound I-29 this morning. The van smashed into a car stopped in the right hand lane before swerving into the left lane where the van crashed into a stopped tractor trailer. Debris from that collision damaged a fourth vehicle.
Ambulance crews rushed eight injured people from the van to Heartland Regional Medical Center. A person in the first car rear-ended also has been hospitalized.
"We had an earlier crash on I-29 that the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department was trying to clear from the roadway," said Sgt. Sheldon Lyon, a state trooper. "Due to that crash, traffic came to a standstill both in the driving lane and passing lane. The van, the 15 passenger van, failed to notice stopped traffic and that's when the crash occurred."
Sgt. Lyon says the van was not a commercial vehicle, but appeared to be carrying mostly Asian immigrants. Troopers say few of the injured could speak English and that's hampered the investigation. Sgt. Lyon says the Highway Patrol is trying to determine whether all 10 people in the van were on their way to work at the same place, possibly Triumph Foods, a meat packing plant in St. Joseph.
Northbound lanes of I-29 reopened at 10 a.m. after being closed for several hours. Although there was some fog later in the morning, troopers say weather does not appear to have been a factor in this accident. Inattention may be a factor. Sgt. Lyon says that's the leading cause of crashes in Missouri.