PARIS, Mo. -- Two people were hospitalized Tuesday after a seven-vehicle crash in a construction zone on U.S. 24 about 3 miles west of Paris.
The crash, which occurred about 9:45 a.m., blocked all traffic on the two-lane highway, the major route between Monroe City and Moberly.
Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Brown said a tractor-trailer truck hauling hogs, driven by Leslie G. Thrasher, 64, of Clarence, failed to stop in time at the zone and collided with a 2016 Ford Fusion, sending it into a ditch, causing a chain reaction accident that involved four autos and three 18-wheel trucks.
Brown said Thrasher was airlifted to University Hospital in Columbia with serious to critical injuries, while the driver of the vehicle he struck, a 16-year-old Paris girl, was taken by ambulance to Columbia with serious injuries.
About half of the 100 hogs on the truck died when the rig overturned.
"We are in the preliminary stage of the investigation but what we do know at this point for sure is that there was a line of vehicles stopped in traffic. The driver of the truck with the hogs was eastbound, and the pilot vehicle was westbound, leading traffic," Brown said. "The tractor trailer driver did not see the stopped car until too late. He swerved left to avoid an accident but ended up striking the vehicle, and he lost control and overturned."
Contractors working for the Missouri Department of Transportation have spent the last two months resurfacing long stretches of U.S. 24 and making bridge repairs. Traffic narrows to a single lane in the construction zone, with pilot vehicles guiding traffic between construction stops.
Brown said the truck hauling hogs struck the Ford, and kept traveling forward, causing the other semitrucks to turn over.
Debbie Miller of Paris was driving a 2020 Subaru Impreza that was second in line at the construction stop. Her car was slightly damaged. Miller, co-owner of Miller's Bar and Grill in Paris, was in the car with her son, Jeremy Michael, when the chain reaction crash took place.
"It sounded like a bomb went off," Miller said, adding that she saw nothing coming in her rearview mirror as she and her son awaited the pilot car to lead them through the construction zone. "I just thought, oh, crap. We are really lucky."
The other cars were mangled, and the ditch along the north side of U.S. 24 was strewn with dead hogs and debris.
Drivers faced detours of at least 10 miles. Eastbound traffic was detoured to southbound Route C, then east on Route AA, north on Mo. 15 through Paris, until connecting back into U.S. 24, where there were long construction delays. Westbound traffic drove the same route in the opposite direction.
In addition to the patrol, Brown said responding agencies included the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, Paris Fire Department, Madison Fire Department, Monroe County Ambulance, Life Flight and Randolph County Ambulance District.