(AP) ANTWERP, N.Y. - A chain-reaction crash that started when a tractor-trailer rear-ended a vehicle in a work zone in northern New York on Thursday left six people dead and another injured, state police said.
Trooper Jack Keller said five of the people killed were riding in an SUV that burst into flames when it was struck.
He said the SUV had stopped or was moving slowly Thursday morning because of road repaving on Route 11 in the Jefferson County town of Antwerp. The truck slammed into the back of one vehicle, causing collisions with a state Department of Transportation truck and the SUV, which then burst into flames, Keller said.
The driver of another vehicle died at a hospital around 12:30 p.m., and a transportation worker was hospitalized, Keller said.
The tractor-trailer driver, James A. Mills Jr. of Myerstown, Pa., was taken to a hospital for treatment and will be tested for drugs and alcohol, the trooper said. The Jefferson County district attorney was at the scene and will determine whether charges are warranted. State police were investigating the cause of the accident and inspecting the tractor-trailer for mechanical problems, Keller said.
The SUV that carried five people was registered in New York, Keller said. Police were attempting to determine if all five victims were from the same family, he said.
The crash happened near Fort Drum, 85 miles northeast of Syracuse. The collision occurred along a straight, flat section of the two-lane road, the main east-west highway across four rural northern counties along the Canadian border. There were plenty of signs warning motorists approaching the area that crews were working on the road, Keller said.
"(The tractor-trailer) plowed right into them," he said by telephone from the scene. "We're trying to determine what happened."
Signage on the tractor-trailer indicates it is owned by MBM Customized Foodservice Distribution based in Rocky Mount, N.C. A company spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. Keller said the truck was hauling a full load of yogurt from a plant in North Lawrence in neighboring Franklin County.
DOT spokesman William Reynolds confirmed that a state crew was repaving the road and that one of the agency's employees was injured and airlifted to a hospital in Syracuse. The federal National Transportation Safety Board was notified and investigators were en route to the crash scene, Reynolds said.
Route 11 was expected to remain closed for several hours.