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Six die in pickup-semi accident near Jamestown

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Six men were killed here Wednesday morning when their pickup spun off Interstate 94 and was struck by an oncoming semi.

The pickup was westbound on I-94 when the driver lost control near mile marker 258, just west of a main exit into Jamestown, said Sgt. Josh Rude of the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

The pickup went through the median and was struck on the passenger side by the eastbound semi pulling a trailer, Rude said.

The semi came to rest in the median while the pickup went into the southside ditch. Three of the men were ejected from the pickup.

Rude said all six men in the pickup died.

The driver of the semi – a 23-year-old Mandan man – was taken to Jamestown Regional Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries.

Rude said he did not believe any of the six men who died were wearing seat belts. The semi driver was belted in.

“There is nothing (the semi driver) could do,” said Capt. Brian Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. “There’s no evasive action he could have taken.”

The men’s identities are being withheld pending notification of relatives. Niewind said their names will be released today.

The men are not from North Dakota, South Dakota or Minnesota, Niewind said. Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser said the truck had a Missouri license plate.

Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, Niewind said. However, authorities believe road conditions contributed to the crash. At the time of the 10:25 a.m. accident, officers said Jamestown-area roads were very icy with compacted snow in some areas.

“The driver of the pickup lost control. I don’t know if he had his cruise control on or was just driving so fast,” Niewind said.

Interstate traffic was rerouted around the accident for about two hours. Labor equipment and clothing from the totaled pickup was strewn around the crash site.

Niewind, who has worked with the Highway Patrol since 2000, said he has never seen so many dead after a single accident.

Rude and Kaiser also said the crash was the worst in terms of fatalities in recent memory.

The most recent North Dakota collision involving so many fatalities was on July 6, when four people — including a family of three from West Fargo – were killed when a drunk driver drove the wrong way on I-94 near Medina, N.D., 30 miles west of Jamestown.

In the area where the crash occurred on Wednesday, the median is not separated by a safety barrier. Niewind said the area is not considered a high-traffic area and has not been prone to similar accidents.

Niewind said a vehicle crossing the median and crashing into oncoming traffic is highly unusual in North Dakota.

“It’s pretty unusual when we have multiple fatalities in a crash. When we have vehicles that cross the median, a good majority don’t strike another vehicle,” he said. “If they had spun out a half-second before or a half-second later, they probably would have just went into the ditch.”

As of Dec. 21, the North Dakota Department of Transportation reported 159 fatalities due to traffic accidents across the state. Of those, 52 percent were alcohol-related.

In 2011, 148 people died in accidents across the state, 43 more than in 2010. Sixty-nine percent of those killed in 2011 were not wearing seatbelts and 43 percent involved alcohol.

Wednesday’s accident remains under investigation by the Highway Patrol.

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