6 People Dead After 135-Vehicle Crash in Missouri: 'Most Horrendous I've Seen in My Lifetime'

The Mississippi County coroner tells PEOPLE he is working to identify those killed and notifying their families

Missouri Crash
Photo: fox 2 st. louis

Six people have died after a pile-up in Missouri that included 135 vehicles.

Terry Parker, the coroner for Mississippi County, confirmed the deaths with PEOPLE Thursday, adding that he is "in the process of identifying the deceased and notifying the families of those who were killed."

The Scott City Fire Department wrote in a statement on Facebook that more than 135 vehicles were a part of the pile-up.

"Dozens of fire, ems, and law enforcement agencies responded to this mass casualty motor vehicle collision from Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky that involved over 135 vehicles," the agency shared, noting that firefighters were at the site for six hours.

It continued and said, "Towing operators from Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky are remaining on [scene] to assist with vehicle recoveries."

"Please keep the remaining personnel and towing operators on scene in your thoughts and prayers for their safety during this extensive cleanup operation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families involved in this tragedy."

The East Prarie Police Department also addressed the crash Thursday evening.

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"This is the most horrendous accidents I've seen in my lifetime," the department spokesperson wrote on Facebook. "The amount of assistance from Departments, First Responders, Ems, Fire Departments, MSHP, MSCO, Charleston DPS, Illinois Departments and many more who responded is just simply God's work for mankind."

The statement ended with sending "prayers for all involved, Families of the fatalities and all of those who [have] seen things today that no human should have to endure. This will forever be etched in their memories. We THANK YOU ALL for your service!!"

Robert Hearne, the director of the Charleston Department of Public Safety, said earlier Thursday that fog played a factor in the incident, telling KFVS that they first received calls about the pile-up around 8 a.m.

"As we approached the interstate, it was a very thick fog, you couldn't — the visibility was less than 50 feet, so, the traffic had already backed up," he explained. "We had multiple accidents on both sides of the interstate, the north and the southbound lanes were shut down."

"It's going to take all day to get this cleaned up," Hearne added.

A picture of the crash posted to Twitter showed a massive plume of black smoke stretching into the sky. Dozens of white tractor-trailers can be seen lining the interstate.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety updated drivers on Facebook.

"This is a major incident with multiple crashes involving several tractor-trailers and fatalities," the department wrote, adding that there was no estimated time for reopening I-57. "Both directions are closed and there is a large-scale cleanup underway as well as continuing major-crash fatality scene investigation by Missouri State Highway Patrol."

On Twitter, the Missouri Department of Transportation echoed similar sentiments about the stretch of I-57 from I-55 to the Illinois state line.

"Emergency response and road crews are working diligently on scene. Plan your evening commutes accordingly and avoid traveling in the area," it wrote.

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