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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A tractor-trailer smashed into two cars and burst into flames on a busy interstate in Georgia on Tuesday, killing five people, and authorities are looking into whether the driver may have fallen asleep.
The afternoon crash a few miles west of Savannah on Interstate 16 damaged seven vehicles and shut down the highway for several hours where it meets busy Interstate 95, said Pooler Police Chief Mark Revenew. Witnesses told authorities they saw a tractor-trailer "drifting in and out of lanes" before colliding with cars in front of it and catching fire, Revenew said.
"It's too early to tell, but early indications are the driver may have fallen asleep," said Revenew, whose officers are helping the Georgia State Patrol investigate the crash. Three people died in one car struck by the tractor-trailer, while two others were killed in a second car that ended up crushed between the big truck and another eighteen-wheeler, Revenew said.
The State Patrol said it could not immediately provide any details of the crash.
The deadly collision happened less than a month after another crash involving a tractor-trailer on I-16 killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern University. The earlier wreck April 22 happened less than 20 miles west of the crash Tuesday afternoon.
Revenew said the driver of the tractor-trailer that struck the other vehicles Tuesday survived with no serious injuries. He said the driver spoke with investigators, but he declined to give further details.
"He was obviously traumatized," Revenew said.
No charges had been filed against the truck driver Tuesday. The State Patrol's re-creation and investigation of the crash could take a month or more.
Names of the five people killed were not immediately released pending notification of the victims' families.