ELMWOOD, Okla. – 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 Chevy Suburban was moving fast and passed a couple of trucks on Highway 412 just before it crossed the center line and collided with the 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 and Dodge City, Kan., and they were headed to work at the Booker Packing Co. plant a few miles south of the Texas border in Booker, Randolph said. The victims' names weren't released pending the notification of their families.
The SUV driver was from Woodward, she said.
The van passenger who survived was airlifted to a hospital in Amarillo, Texas, Randolph said. His condition was not immediately known.
"There is a language barrier, so they're attempting to notify next of kin using someone that can help them translate Spanish," she said.
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.