State police said the crash occurred at about 10 p.m. Sunday about 35 miles west of Memphis, Tenn., near near Forrest City when the westbound bus veered across the median into the eastbound lanes. The Tornado Bus Co. bus first struck the pickup, then collided with the 18-wheeler, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
State Police said pickup driver Danny Okurily, 40, of Hot Springs, Ark., was killed, as were two bus passengers. Identities of the dead passengers have not been released. Bus driver Felix Tapia, 28, of Brownsville, Texas, and tractor-trailer driver David Rice, 45, of Mars Hill, N.C., suffered minor injuries.
State police haven't said how many others were injured, but Sadler said a Tornado Bus manifest listed 44 passengers and a driver aboard the bus headed from Chicago to Dallas.
Telephone calls to Tornado Bus offices in Dallas found full voice mail accounts.
Shortly after the crash, a state police dispatcher said about a dozen victims needed to be extricated from the bus. Witnesses said children were among the passengers.
Sadler said Tapia was being interviewed by troopers investigating the crash. Other survivors were also being interviewed.
The injured were taken to hospitals in Forrest City, West Memphis and Memphis, Tenn..
Traffic was halted for a time in both directions as emergency crews worked at the scene. Motorists were rerouted onto U.S. Highway 70.
In 2004, a bus crash in east Arkansas claimed 15 lives. In that crash, a Chicago tour bus heading to a Mississippi casino left Interstate 55 near Marion and flipped over. Federal investigators said the bus, which carried 30 people, was in poor condition and shouldn't have been in service.