The driver of the semi that plowed into stopped traffic along Interstate 70 near Denver is in custody and will be charged with multiple counts of vehicular homicide, police said Friday.
The runaway semi hit several cars and trucks in Lakewood on Thursday, igniting a fiery and deadly crash.
Authorities have not determined precisely how many people were killed and continue to say multiple people died.
Twenty-eight vehicles were involved in the crash: four of them semis and 24 cars, Lakewood Police Department Agent Ty Countryman told reporters on Friday.
The driver, who was behind the wheel of a flatbed truck loaded with lumber, was injured in the crash but not seriously, Countryman said. The driver will be in the Jefferson County Jail as soon as he’s been medically cleared and booked.
Countryman said there’s no evidence of drugs or alcohol in the crash.
When asked whether there were any mechanical issues with the truck, Countryman said it is something his department is looking into, but he believes even if there was a mechanical issue, vehicular manslaughter charges would still stick.
The semi hit cars stuck in a jam due to evening rush hour and a prior crash farther ahead, Countryman said. Along with those killed, at least six people were hospitalized with injuries after the crash, according to the Lakewood Police Department.
“We do know that I-70 eastbound traffic was at a standstill or close to a standstill because of a crash way out ahead of it,” he said at a news conference. “The semi was eastbound and ended up colliding with the … cars that were stopped because of the accident ahead. That’s all we know or we are releasing at this point.”
Video from the scene showed towering orange flames and piles of lumber scattered across the highway. By Thursday night, the area was littered with smoldering ruins.
Darin Barton was panhandling near the scene when the crash happened. He told CNN affiliate KDVR that when the cab of the truck rolled over and flames ignited, he quickly dropped the sign he was holding and ran toward the cars.
“It just caught on fire. And I just dropped my sign, took off running,” Barton said. “As soon as I [saw] flames, I headed under the bridge, grabbed three or four people out of a couple cars.”
The fire was extinguished, but glowing embers and hot spots prevented investigators from immediately getting to the crashed vehicles. Investigators are working to match who was in each car, police said early Friday.
It’s unclear what made the vehicles ignite, Countryman said, adding that he does not know what was in the semis other than the one that appeared to be carrying lumber.
“This is looking to be one of the worst accidents we’ve had here in Lakewood,” he said.
The Denver West Parkway bridge over I-70 sustained significant structural damage from the fire, authorities said. The portion of I-70 affected by the crash is closed overnight in both directions.
Lakewood is about 10 miles from Denver.