(AP) GAINESVILLE, Texas - A tractor-trailer slammed into backed-up traffic on Interstate 35 near the Texas-Oklahoma border Monday, killing three people and leaving the northbound lanes of the heavily traveled highway closed for most of the afternoon.
The crash happened on a section of I-35 where two lanes narrow into one because of maintenance work being done on a bridge. It's about two miles southwest of Gainesville and about 13 miles south of the Oklahoma border.
The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the three people killed as Anthony and Kimberly Brandon of Bedford and Darryl Hoosier, 55, of Lafayette, La.
Trooper Mark Tackett said an 18-wheeler driven by James Crayton, 59, of Dallas, apparently never slowed before slamming into the rear car of the jam. That car, driven by Anthony Brandon with wife, Kimberly, as passenger, exploded on impact, killing both. No ages for the Brandons were available.
Tackett said the truck then slammed into another car, injuring Carol Whaley, 63, and his wife, Linda Whaley, 61, of Yalaha, Fla.
Tackett said the 18-wheeler then rammed the car driven by Hoosier into the rear of another 18-wheeler, killing him. The driver of the second truck was not injured.
Tackett said Crayton was taken to a Gainesville hospital for blood testing and questioning. No charges were filed.
Meanwhile, northbound traffic on I-35 was being diverted in the Gainesville area.
Cooke County Sheriff Mike Compton expressed frustration at the hazard posed by the maintenance work at the bridge, noting an accident over the Fourth of July holiday killed two people.
"You've got two people burned up and one person killed. This makes five people who are dead in the past 30 days because of all the construction on this bridge," Compton said.
The Texas Department of Transportation awarded that $200,000 contract to KKM Construction of Texarkana, Ark. TexDOT Wichita Falls District spokeswoman Adele Lewis says KKM is far behind on the project.
"They have a 45-day contract. Their 45 days ends either today or tomorrow," she said. Failure to meet the deadline means "liquidated damages," in which TexDOT starts to dock the contractor for its contracted compensation, she said.
"We fully intend to hit them with liquidated damages," she said.
Phone calls to KKM were met with busy signals.