Two people have died, and nine others have been injured after a passenger van slammed into the back end of a semi on Interstate 29 just south of St. Joseph, MO.
The deadly accident happened just before 5 a.m. and involved three tractor-trailers, two cars and one 16-passenger van. The wreck shut down both lanes of northbound I-29 about four miles south of Interstate 229 near St. Joseph for several hours. The backup behind the accident at one point was more than a mile long.
It was an accident likely caused by inattentive driving.
A community is devastated by the loss of a husband and his wife. Phun Bik, 47, and his wife, Rose Mery Thlia, 37, were killed instantly in the car accident Thursday morning.
The couple was Van Ling's uncle and aunt.
"Our family is very sad right now," Ling said.
Missouri State troopers said it appears the driver, Bik, did not realize that traffic in front of him had slowed down. He crashed into the back of one car and then swerved into the back of a semi.
The passenger van was completely mangled and its front half was destroyed. Eight others in the van, all related to one another, suffered severe injuries in the crash.
"We become just relaxed in our cars. We need to make sure we are paying attention, what's down the road, what is in front of us. In this case sight distance was good, we had proper lights, we just have to pay attention," Sgt. Sheldon Lyon said.
"They are in pretty bad shape. Some have broken legs, some have head injuries," Ling said.
Ling said his family and everyone in the van are from the country Burma, now called Myanmar. He said there's a large community of Chin, one of the ethnic groups in Burma, in Kansas City, KS.
"They went to Malaysia and then from the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) they came here as a refugees," Ling said.
The van was headed to St. Joseph, MO. Some of the passengers worked in the meat packaging plant Triumph Foods.
But now the Chin community must gather to bury a couple, a couple who came to the United States just one year ago for a new life.
The driver of the car that was rear-ended was also hurt and taken to the hospital
Troopers said when they arrived on scene, there was a language barrier. Troopers again want to remind drivers to pay close attention to what's in front and what's behind them.
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