Death toll rises to two in massive Wyoming traffic pileup

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2015 6:26 PM

(Reuters) - The death toll from a massive Wyoming traffic pileup climbed to two on Tuesday as one lane of a federal highway remained closed for a second day after collisions that involved 64 vehicles and injured dozens, authorities said.

Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers arrested a Canadian motorist on Monday on suspicion of vehicular homicide, but authorities declined to provide details about the investigation involving Alex Dragaytsev, 45, of Quebec.

Troopers initially blamed fog and slush for a pileup on U.S. Interstate 80 west of Laramie that began at 8 a.m. Monday when a semitrailer crashed into another truck and jackknifed over both lanes of the main east-west artery that crosses the southern part of the state, authorities said.

Police said on Monday that one person had been killed, without providing further details.

Authorities increased the death toll to two on Tuesday and identified the victims as Lynn Freeman, 58, of Williford, Arkansas, and Jenay Breden of Westminister, Colorado.

The two women were in separate vehicles during the crash, Wyoming Highway Patrol Sergeant David Wagener said. He declined to provide additional details, citing the pending criminal investigation.

An ongoing probe showed weather was a contributing factor in the collisions on the heavily trafficked 50-mile stretch of I-80 between Laramie and the capital city of Cheyenne, Wagener said.

He said late on Monday that a digital sign 19 miles before the accident site had advised drivers to lower their speeds because of reduced visibility and black ice.

The initial investigation and cleanup of the highway were hampered by a fire that broke out after the crash of a commercial truck hauling a solvent considered a hazardous material, Wagener said.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Daniel Wallis)