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Oklahoma Highway Patrol: Slickened roads possible factor in wreck that killed 6 in rural Oklahoma


CHOUTEAU, Oklahoma — The remnants of a winter storm that dumped snow on Oklahoma's Panhandle, sent down sleet in the north and slickened roads in the northeast pushed out of the state on Saturday, with authorities saying the nasty weather could have contributed to a car wreck that killed six people.

A report by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said the driver of a minivan lost control on the wet road and crossed the center median into oncoming traffic. The minivan struck a tractor trailer head-on, according to the report. The collision happened around midnight in Mayes County near the town of Chouteau, just as roadways became more treacherous as the winter storm approached.

The driver of the minivan and five passengers — including two children, ages 1 and 3 — were pronounced dead from their injuries. A sixth passenger, listed in the preliminary report as a juvenile male, was taken to a hospital in serious condition. The patrol didn't immediately release the names of the victims because their next of kin hadn't been notified, Lt. John Vincent said Saturday.

By late Saturday afternoon, most of the storm had made its way through Oklahoma and into Arkansas, where higher elevations in the northern part of the state could see up to 3 inches of snowfall. Wind chills were expected regionally in the single digits to low double digits by Sunday morning.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said crews had finished snow removal in the Panhandle and in western and northern parts of the state where the most snow fell by Saturday afternoon. The bulk of the snow removal also wrapped up in Oklahoma City and Tulsa as pavement began to dry.

Highway officials still cautioned drivers traveling mostly through the southeastern Oklahoma counties of Cherokee, Coal, Johnston, LeFlore and McCurtain to stay alert for closed roadways where flooding had yet to subside.

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