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CARLISLE, Ark. — Three people died in a collision Tuesday afternoon involving two 18-wheelers on Interstate 40 in central Arkansas, a wreck that closed part of the busy interstate for hours.
The crash near the Carlisle exit in Lonoke County reportedly occurred shortly before 3:20 p.m.
Carlisle is located some 30 miles west of Little Rock.
Arkansas Department of Transportation spokesman Danny Straessle, said a truck headed east crossed the median and hit a FedEx truck in the westbound lanes.
An Arkansas State Police report said a 2016 Peterbilt driven east by 64-year-old Jerry Stice of Westville, Oklahoma, crossed into the westbound lanes and hit a 2019 Freightliner.
Stice was driving a truck owned by Larry Williams Trucking of West Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Concord, Oklahoma. Sadly, less than four hours before the crash, the carrier had on Facebook welcomed Stice as a new driver: “Welcome to the team, Jerry Stice! He’s our newest driver at Larry Williams Trucking. Jerry has many years experience and we’re excited to see him learn and be successful!”
Police said Stice died at the scene as did two people in the westbound truck: 47-year-old driver Jesus Escareno of Houston and passenger Mark Lynch, 55, of Magnolia, Texas.
Straessle said it was unclear how the truck initially crossed a wire safety barrier in the median and said it may have gone airborne at some point. No other vehicles were involved.
The type of wire safety barrier on Interstate 40 is designed to slow or halt a passenger car, but not a tractor trailer.
All westbound lanes were closed until around 10:30 p.m., and one eastbound lane was closed for some time as well.
Lengthy traffic backups quickly developed in the area as vehicles were diverted onto U.S. 70 at the 193-mile marker.
I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis is one of the busiest stretches of traffic in Arkansas, handling up to 20,000 trucks a day, according to ARDOT.