El Reno, OK Chain Reaction Crash, Jun 1974


El Reno, Okla. (AP) - Nine persons were killed and 24 injured Sunday in the chain-reaction collision of 18 vehicles in heavy smoke that blanketed Interstate 40 at this central Oklahoma community.
Gov. David Hall called it "perhaps the worst traffic accident in Oklahoma history."
All of the vehicles burned after an explosion, Hall's press secretary, Ed Hardy, said at the scene.
The patrol first said 11 persons had been confirmed dead in the multiple crashes, but revised the figure downward late Sunday night.
Seven persons were hospitalized, one of them in critical condition, the patrol said.
The patrol identified three of the dead as JAMES M. MAIN, 54; MARY E. MAIN, 53, and MARGARET ELIZABETH McMAHAN, 76, all of Shawnee, Okla. MRS. McMAHAN was identified as the mother of MARY MAIN.
The smoke came from burning grass on both sides of the highway, Hardy said. The cause of the grassfire was not immediately known.
A truck loaded with cattle crashed into the rear of some of the autos, and all the vehicles caught fire after an explosion, Hardy said.
"The death count could go even higher, depending on the severity of the injuries," Hardy said.
Twelve vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction collision, which occurred about 1 p.m., the Highway Patrol reported.
"It was a classic case of what the signs mean when they say, 'Do not drive into smoke,'" Hardy said, referring to signs posted on Oklahoma highways where brush and grass fires are common.
"As the lead car slowed down, others piled into it. Within seconds a large cattle truck loaded with cattle for market piled into the smoke and finished them off."
"All of the cars caught fire. Something exploded. They look like cord wood, some of them. You can't even tell the make of them."

Waco Tribune-Herald Texas 1974-07-01