Staff and wire reports

ELMWOOD, Okla. - An SUV veered across a highway median in the Oklahoma Panhandle early Wednesday and collided head-on with an oncoming van full of men headed to work at a Texas meatpacking plant, killing both drivers and five of the six van passengers, authorities said.

The Chevy Suburban passed a couple of trucks on Highway 412 just before it crossed the center line and collided with the van near Elmwood, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said.

One of the 7 people killed was a Woodward man, who was driving the Chevy Suburban. Bobby Carroll Matthews, 55, was pronounced dead at the scene with head, chest and internal injuries, said the OHP in its updated report late Wednesday night.

Also killed were Alejandro Mejia Lopez, 28, of Liberal, Kan., Julio Ramos Perez, 25, of Liberal, Rigoberto Toj Garcia, 24, of Liberal, Julio Cesar Don Juan Morino, 27, of Liberal, Sebastian Sucuqui Saquic, 21, of Liberal and Juan Lorenzo, 56, of Liberal. Francisco Diaz, 33, of Liberal, was taken by mediflight to Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo and admitted in critical condition. Lopez was driving the van, the OHP said.

Both drivers were pinned in the vehicles for an hour and 45 minutes, the OHP said.

"It was pretty horrific," Randolph said. "The lieutenant I talked to said he'd worked in Beaver County for 24 years, and he's never seen anything like that. When you have that many bodies involved in a crash, it's terrible."

All seven of the men in the van were were headed to work at the Booker Packing Co. plant a few miles south of the Texas border in Booker, Randolph said.

Elmwood, in Beaver County, is less than 10 miles from the Texas state line. The accident happened around 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning

Both lanes of the highway were temporarily closed but reopened about five hours later.


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