This May 22, 2014 image provided by the New Mexico State Police shows the crash site in southwestern New Mexico. Authorities said several vehicles were involved in this crash on Interstate 10, during a dust storm, that killed at least six people.(AP Photo/New Mexico State Police)
DEMING, N.M. (AP) — A fiery multi-vehicle crash along Interstate 10 in southwestern New Mexico that involved at least three tractor-trailers and three passenger [auth] cars has left seven people dead.
New Mexico State Police originally counted six fatalities from Thursday’s crash, but they said late Friday that one of the victim’s family members reported three people were in one car involved in the crash — not two victims as previously reported.
The names of the victims haven’t been released.
Police also determined that eight vehicles were involved in the crash. All that was left of some of them were charred hunks of nearly indiscernible metal.
The crash in Hidalgo County, several miles from the Arizona border, came as New Mexico and the region was struck Thursday afternoon by a violent storm system.
Severe weather and large hail caused multiple car wrecks in northern New Mexico and the eastern part of the state saw damaging winds reaching more than 60 mph.
Thick dust was reported in southern New Mexico on Thursday. Signs along the stretch of the interstate where the crash happened warn of dust storms.
“A sudden dust storm that limited visibility to almost nothing caused the lead vehicle to stop suddenly, causing a chain reaction of rear-end collisions,” police said in a statement issued Friday.
After the flames from Thursday’s crash were doused, workers dragged all of the wreckage to the side of the road. Photographs show the burned-out shell of what was left of a car along with the twisted metal frames of several big rigs.
Police said the exact sequence of events remained under investigation.
The interstate was shut down in both directions following the crash. The road was open Friday but authorities were advising travelers that the speed limit has been reduced.
Authorities warned that more severe weather was possible for much of New Mexico through the weekend. Severe thunderstorms and heavy rain are expected along the eastern plains and into the southeast, while dry, gusty storms were expected to move across the southwestern corner of New Mexico.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service say winds of up to 60 mph are expected in the south and warned travelers not to drive into the resulting dust.