DEXTER, Mo. - Thick, black smoke from a brush fire along a southeast Missouri highway on Labor Day caused a chain-reaction crash that injured 26 people, including four seriously, authorities said Tuesday.
Authorities said a brush fire along Highway 60 near Dexter in Stoddard County created black smoke so thick that drivers couldn't see. The result was a wreck just before noon Monday that involved 18 vehicles.
"It's probably one of the worst accidents we've had in this part of the county in several years," David Cooper, director of the Stoddard County Ambulance District, told the Southeast Missourian.
Four people had serious injuries, described by the ambulance district as life-threatening. Melissa Reeser of St. Louis, whose age was not listed, and Jaclyn King, 18, of Poplar Bluff, were flown to a hospital in Cape Girardeau. Jackie Chamness, 51, of Creal Springs, Ill., was taken to a hospital in Poplar Bluff, Mo., and Lana Chamness, 61, also of Creal Springs, was flown to a hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Fifteen others had moderate injuries and seven had minor injuries. The injured ranged in age from 9 to 84 years old.
Eight ambulances and medical helicopters responded to the wreck. Some people were thrown from their vehicles, and at least two people had to be extricated.
"We activated our mass casualty plan due to the number of patients," Juden said.
Nine of the 18 vehicles involved were destroyed, six had extensive damage and three had minor damage, the patrol said.
No charges had been filed.
Highway 60 was closed for more than six hours after the wreck. Stoddard County is in the Missouri Bootheel region, about 150 miles south of St. Louis.
The patrol said seven people died in Missouri accidents over the Labor Day weekend, one fewer than in 2009. The patrol worked 294 wrecks over the holiday, with 148 injuries.