Illinois Truck Driver Killed In Nowata County Highway Crash

Wednesday, July 20th 2011, 9:17 am
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

NOWATA COUNTY, Oklahoma -- The driver of a semi tractor trailer is dead after a fiery crash on U.S. Highway 169 when he slammed his truck into the back of another semi. The collision caused the big rig to catch fire.

Road construction played a role in the fatal wreck early Wednesday morning.

Everyone working the crash site along Highway 169 in Nowata County, about seven miles south of the Kansas state line, realizes how quickly a life can be lost. In an instant, the driver of a truck hauling a load of hair care products was killed.

"He really didn't have a chance when it burst into flames, and the impact being so violent and the intrusion on the cab, he just wasn't able to get out," said Trooper Ben Bertram, Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The driver killed was identified as 57-year-old Arthur Vann, Jr. of DuQuoin, Illinois.  He was trapped in his rig for over three hours.

A portion of the highway was down to one lane because of road construction. A flag man had southbound traffic stopped.

The OHP says Vann didn't realize that the semi in front of him had stopped, slamming into the back of the semi, which was hauling toilet tissue.

"Left about approximately 80 feet of skid marks prior to making impact with the two vehicles being stopped," Bertram said.

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The victims' semi burst into flames. He was burned beyond recognition.

The impact of the collision, also forced the second semi into a car. The car's driver, 40-year-old Jared Ward of Cherryville, Kansas wasn't hurt, but the other truck driver, 62-year-old Robert Weller of Muskogee was taken to a hospital with neck and back injuries.

The highway was shut down with traffic diverted from both directions onto state Highway 10. 

They say, with so much construction underway in Oklahoma, this terrible accident reinforces the need for drivers to be cautious. 

"When they see the construction signs, ‘posted construction ahead,' or ‘slow down to 45' - whatever the posted speed limit is through those construction zones, they really need to pay attention to that, and heed that," said Trooper Ben Bertram, OHP.

The highway was closed for just over eight hours. Engineers checked to make sure the intense heat from the fire didn't damage the road surface.

Emergency crews in nearby Coffeyville and in Washington County also helped with that accident scene. They provided personnel to rotate with Nowata County crews because of the intense heat.