SCOOBA, Miss. (AP) — Eight people — including four brothers — were killed before dawn Monday in a head-on collision between a box truck and a passenger van on a rural highway.
All the deceased were passengers in the van, Kemper County Sheriff James Moore told The Associated Press. They did tree work for an agricultural company, Moore said. Most were from Macon, Mississippi — about a 20-minute drive from the crash scene, he said.
“We had rescue workers there who said that out of 25 to 30 years they’ve been doing this, they haven’t had one this bad,” Moore said. “The van is pretty tore up.”
Macon resident Amy Lugo said one of the victims was her husband, Francisco Lugo, 48. His three brothers, two cousins and an uncle also died in the crash, she said. The van driver, who survived, also was a cousin.
Amy Lugo said she and her husband had been together almost 20 years. Their son turns 2 in August.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. I don’t know how I’m going to make it without him. He was everything,” she said, struggling to speak through her tears.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol received a call just before 3:30 a.m. Monday about the crash on Mississippi Highway 16 east of Scooba, near the Alabama state line, Sgt. Andy West said.
In an interview on the road shoulder near the crash site, Alejandro Estrejo Resendiz said he was driving the van. He had blood on his head from a cut and more blood on his blue jeans, but he said he was otherwise unhurt.
Speaking through a translator, he said the crash happened on a curve near a small bridge as he and the other workers headed for their jobs in Monroeville, Alabama.
They had left Macon, Mississippi, and were about 25 minutes into a more than 110-mile (177-kilometer) drive along rural roads.
Resendiz said he was in his lane and tried to avoid the truck but couldn’t.
“At the moment I tried to swerve, get over to the side, the truck hit me,” he said.
The truck pushed the van backward into the guardrail, where it came to rest. The asphalt was gouged, and metal guardrails were bent. The road was stained with fluids from one of the vehicles.
Asked if he felt lucky to be a live, he said, “It was a miracle.”
Investigators on Monday were working to reconstruct how the crash happened. Weather is not believed to have been a factor, the sheriff said.
Volunteer rescue workers from Kemper County and from the nearby town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, responded.
“You do what you can to preserve the bodies with dignity,” Moore said. “After it’s over with, that’s when it starts to set in what you’ve just done.”
Amy Lugo said the mother of her husband and his three brothers still lives in Camarones, Mexico.
“I just feel so bad for their mom. She lost all four of her sons in one day,” she said.
The victims lived in four trailers parked on a corner lot in Macon, Mississippi. Lugo said they typically sat in the same spot in the van each workday.
Luis Chora, owner of a Mexican restaurant in Macon, said he had known two of those killed for years.
“One of the guys would come here and give me hot peppers,” Chora said.
Shanda Graham said she and her husband, who is Mexican, were friends with some of the victims.
“That many at one time? It’s heartbreaking,” Graham said.
This story has been edited to correct Francisco Lugo’s age to 48, not 18.
Associated Press Writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.