MIDDLEBOROUGH, MASS. – Five “young adults ” Monday morning died when a driver-wrong way collided with a second vehicle, killing the driver of wrong-four people in the second car, which burst into flames upon impact, said state police.
The names and ages of those who died in the accident on Interstate 495 that took place shortly after midnight were not disclosed. All were believed to be residents of Massachusetts, said Major Anthony Thomas, commander of the state police troop D.
“It was a horrific scene,’’ he told reporters at a press conference outside the Middleborough barracks. He expressed his condolences to the families of those killed.
The wrong-way car was traveling south when it collided head-on with the northbound vehicle, which was traveling in the high-speed lane, Thomas said.
“The crash impact caused the northbound vehicle to become engulfed in fire,’’ he said. “There is no indication that time allowed for evasive action for the northbound vehicle operator to avoid the vehicle traveling the wrong way.’’
Thomas said that the investigation is ongoing and one of many issues being explored is what “stimuli” played a role in the actions by the wrong-way driver. “The crash this morning was caused by the wrong-way operator,’’ he said.
The names of the victims are being withheld pending notification of next of kin, State Police said.
The crash happened in the northbound lanes near Exit 3, the Route 28 interchange.
While the route the wrong-way driver took remains under investigation, Thomas said it was likely they entered the highway either at Exit 4, the Route 105 interchange in central Middleborough or at Exit 5, the Route 44 interchange.
He said a 911 caller reported seeing the wrong-way driver moments before the fatal crash. He said investigators believed the wrong-way driver was only on the highway for a brief period of time.
Thomas said State Police and MassDOT both have developed “proactive measures” to prevent wrong-way crashes through enforcement and signage, including signs on ramps telling drivers they are heading in the wrong direction.
But, he said, the reach of government has its limits.
“Could we mount a wall that pushes back fate?’’ he said. “I guess we could, but sometimes fate overwhelms us all.”
All lanes of the interstate reopened around 5:18 a.m., officials said.