A van and a tractor-trailer collided early Tuesday morning near the Midway exit of Interstate 70, sending 13 people to University Hospital.
All five ambulances in service in Boone County were used to transport the 11 men and two women to the hospital. Two of the van’s passengers suffered potentially life-threatening injuries, said Ken Hines, assistant chief of the Boone County Fire Protection District. One person remains in intensive care, and the others suffered minor injuries that required medical attention, Hines said.
Firefighters encountered language difficulties when trying to determine the injuries because all the passengers spoke little or no English, Hines said.
However, firefighters were able to communicate through hand signals, pointing and through the help of one of the victims who spoke broken English, Hines said.
Octavio Marin-Gomez, 26, said that he was driving the group from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and that he was contacted by one of the passengers to take the group to Florida to pick oranges and drop off some in Springfield, Tenn.
After borrowing the Ford Econoline van from one of his cousins, Marin-Gomez said, he charged each passenger $200 for the trip.
Eight of the 13 people injured in the accident had been released by late Tuesday afternoon, said Rosa Espinosa, a translator for University Hospital. She also said that five of them are staying with her, and three others were picked up by family and went to Tennessee.
Espinosa said the people staying with her are waiting for family members to arrive from Florida to take them back once they are released. Marin-Gomez of Avon Park, Fla., was one of those released from the hospital.
“I can’t move too well — my whole body hurts — but the X-rays say that I’m OK,” Marin-Gomez said.
I-70 was restricted to one lane for almost three hours while vehicles were removed from the scene.
Marin-Gomez said the van’s passengers included Alfredo Gutierrez-Garcia, 28, of Springfield, Tenn.; Joel Gomez-Marin, 19, Mario Perez-Olguin, 22, Jesus Ramirez-Cati, 18, Benito Delgado-Palma, 32, Tomas Hernandez, 37, and Fidel Gomez-Garcia, 24, all of Hidalgo, Mexico; Antonio Guitierrez-Cristobal, 25, of Reynosa, Mexico; Gabriela Gomez-Mesa, 24, of Mexico City; and Gilberto Badillo, age unavailable, Irene Badillo, age unavailable, and Sixto Gomez-Olguin, 22, all of Mexico.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, Joseph Potter, 45, of Maryville, refused medical care on the scene.
Reporter Julio Urdaneta
contributed to this report.