(Reuters) – Police have charged a truck driver with vehicular homicide after he triggered a fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed a still unknown number of motorists, some of whom remain in the wreckage on an interstate near Denver, authorities said on Friday.
The crash on Thursday afternoon turned a stretch of Interstate 70, a major east-west highway, into a raging inferno that involved at least 28 vehicles and may have damaged the road surface and an overpass, authorities said.
A day after the crash, the death toll remains at “multiple” as responders and investigators inspect the burned-out vehicles, Lakewood, Colorado, police spokesman Ty Countryman told reporters.
“We’re just saying ‘multiple’ at this time,” he said, adding that six people were taken to hospitals.
Asked whether there were still any bodies at the crash site, Countryman said, “Unfortunately, yes, there are.”
Police said the chain-reaction crash started when a tractor-trailer truck collided with slower traffic on the highway.
The driver, who was injured in the crash, but not seriously, was taken into custody after police determined they had sufficient cause to bring “multiple counts of vehicular homicide” against him, Countryman said.
There was no indication that the driver, who was not immediately identified, intentionally caused the crash, Countryman said, adding that “at this time there’s no evidence of drugs or alcohol.”
Despite the criminal charges, Countryman said investigators were also trying the determine if the truck’s brakes failed.
The stretch of Interstate 70, which runs through Denver west into the Rocky Mountains, will remain closed in both directions at least until sometime on Saturday, state Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Josh Laipply told reporters.
Parts of the highway will need to be resurfaced and, while a preliminary check shows that a bridge over the crash site was undamaged, it will need a full safety inspection, Laipply said.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)