Tishomingo, Oklahoma, Crash Between Car, Semi Kills 6 High School Students

Six teenage girls were killed in a Tuesday car crash in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, police said.

The Tishomingo High School students died after their car collided with a semi-truck, KFOR-TV reported. The Johnston County Sheriff's Office told KTEN-TV the accident happened at about 12:30 p.m. local time at a three-way intersection.

The accident comes as traffic fatalities remain elevated, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting in late 2021 that the number of traffic deaths in the first six months of that year were 18.4 percent higher than 2020. The number of projected fatalities hit its highest number in 15 years.

According to data from LiveStories, the number of car crash fatalities per 100,000 people in Oklahoma remained elevated above the national average for the entire nearly 20-year period it studied—1999 to 2018.

According to a report from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS), the six girls were driving in a 2015 Chevy Spark. This car model is small, only having enough space to seat four people.

Troopers told KXII-TV the car the teens were in stopped at a stop sign, then attempted to make a U-turn when the semi-truck hit, knocking it back about 30 yards. The six girls have not yet been identified.

The driver of the Spark was a 16-year-old girl, the DPS report said. Three of the victims were 15 years old and two were 17. Four of them were pronounced dead at the scene while two were hospitalized, then died later.

The driver of the semi-truck, who the DPS identified as 51-year-old Valendon Burton, was not injured. Currently, the cause of the crash and the condition of the two drivers at the time of the crash are still under investigation.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page, the Johnston County Sheriff's Office said local police departments and the fire department are assisting in the investigation and response to the crash.

"Our prayers are with each of the families involved and our community," the statement said. "This is an absolute tragedy which will have life long [sic] effects. This community and families need our support and prayers at this time."

In a statement sent to parents and community members, Tishomingo Public Schools Superintendent Bobby Waitman said that while schools will be open Wednesday, "our focus will be the emotional well-being of our students," adding that Tishomingo High School will have a space prepared with counselors available for people to speak to.

"Our hearts are broken, and we are grieving with our students and staff," Waitman wrote.

The World Population Review reported there have been more than 650 deaths from car crashes in Oklahoma just since the beginning of 2022. When looking at the rest of the country, Oklahoma does not even fall into the top 10 states with the most fatal crashes so far this year.

As a result of the spikes in traffic fatalities, the Department of Transportation recently announced a new approach to road safety called the "Complete Streets" initiative, Newsweek previously reported. The plan aims to collect more safety data and make sure to prioritize safety when designing roads.

In the October NHTSA statement, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the increased traffic deaths "a crisis."

"More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind," he said. "We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America."

Update 03/22/22 6:05 p.m. EDT: This story was updated to add more information.

Update 03/23/22 11:30 a.m. EDT: This story was updated to add more information from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and a new photo.

Six Teens Die in Oklahoma Car Crash
Six teenage girls died when a semi-truck collided with their Chevy Spark. Above, in this image provided by KFOR-TV, the heavily damaged vehicle is seen off a road in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, March 22. NewsNation KFOR via AP