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7 Killed in Fiery Interstate 5 Crash Near Mt. Shasta

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Seven people were killed Wednesday in the fiery crash of two large trucks and a passenger car on rain-slicked Interstate 5, snarling traffic for miles on the eve of Thanksgiving, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Frank Parrish said emergency workers found four bodies in the car, two in one truck and one in the other truck.

“We don’t believe there’s going to be anybody else [found],” he said, adding that it could be “a very long time” before the victims are identified.

“All of the bodies were burned beyond recognition” and the vehicles were heavily damaged, he said.

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Authorities initially confirmed five deaths, but then raised the count to six and then seven as emergency workers searched the wreckage.

The crash occurred just south of Dunsmuir, about 300 miles northeast of San Francisco, on California’s only freeway link to Oregon.

CHP officials said a southbound big rig lost control and hit a northbound logging truck and the car head-on. Emergency workers said the logging truck was passing the car when the crash occurred.

“Because of the amount of damage to the passenger car, it appears it was a simultaneous head-on collision and all three vehicles were immediately engulfed in flames,” Parrish said.

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There were unconfirmed reports of injuries, although no victims had been taken to Mercy Medical Center in Mt. Shasta, the hospital closest to the crash site, hospital officials reported.

“We received a trauma alert, but no injured were brought in,” said hospital spokeswoman Sally Starling.

One emergency worker said the highway appeared to have been made slippery by the first significant rain of the winter season, and that visibility was hampered by fog.

Fires burned more than three hours after the crash, which occurred shortly after 9 a.m.

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Sixty miles of the busy interstate, clogged with pre-Thanksgiving holiday travelers, were shut down northbound at Redding and southbound at Mt. Shasta for several hours. Bumper-to-bumper traffic was diverted eastward along a two-lane, 120-mile mountain loop.

At one point, southbound traffic was backed up 12 miles from Mt. Shasta to Weed, observers said.

One southbound lane of the highway was reopened Wednesday afternoon, and at least one northbound lane was expected to open by evening, said CHP Sgt. Bo Heckert. “The southbound lane is open now and we are escorting people through. It is subject to delays,” Heckert said.

The accident occurred about a mile south of the site of a 30-vehicle accident last Friday that killed one man and injured 17 others, including former New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen, who pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.

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