Trooper Describes Fiery, Chaotic Scene On Night Of Multi-Car Crash That Killed 5 Students

A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper who responded to a multi-vehicle crash that killed five people on Interstate 80 described a scene more suited to a dystopian horror film.

Greg Johnson

January 25, 20235 min read

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Graphic content: This story contains descriptions of the scene of a fatal crash that involved multiple vehicles. Read at your discretion.

He was the only one to walk away unscathed.

A 57-year-old out-of-state roofer accused of driving the wrong way on Interstate 80 just east of Rawlins, Wyoming, killing five people and injuring at least six others, apparently was the only one to emerge physically intact from the Sunday evening multi-vehicle crash.

Arthur Nelson, reportedly from Limestone, Tennessee, but who had been working in Utah, didn’t appear physically hurt, but seemed under the influence of something, Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Corey McCallister wrote in an affidavit detailing the scene.

Nelson repeatedly insisted he wasn’t driving the wrong way on the interstate despite reports his black 2014 Dodge Ram 3500 was seen doing so, the affidavit says. 

Instead, he insisted he was driving west on I-80 toward Rawlins, yet was on his way to Tennessee, which is east, McCallister wrote.

“I informed him he was traveling the wrong direction to reach Tennessee,” McCallister wrote in his affidavit. “I believed this to be strange, as (Nelson) would need to travel east to reach Tennessee in the opposite direction of Rawlins.”

When informed he was driving the wrong direction, McCallister says Nelson responded, “That’s what GPS told me.”

After observing Nelson unable to stand well by himself and nodding off in the back of his patrol car, McCallister wrote that Nelson finally admitted he had used methamphetamine the day before.

When told that because of the drugs he should not have been driving, Nelson responded, “That’s a lesson learned.”

Arthur A. Nelson

The Scene

McCallister details a chaotic, dystopian scene when he arrived shortly after the crash.

Driving east in the westbound lane of I-80, Nelson’s truck sideswiped a FedEx commercial truck then hit a small Infiniti SUV nearly head-on, according to the affidavit. The Infiniti had been trying to pass another commercial vehicle at the time.

That semitrailer, an MS Freight truck, spun and tried to avoid a crash, McCallister’s affidavit continues. It came to rest across the median in the eastbound lane of the interstate.

“There was no other cause for the MS Freight commercial motor vehicle to leave its lane of travel except to avoid a head-on collision with (Nelson’s) vehicle,” according to the affidavit.

There, it hit head-on with a red Ford F-150 carrying five young people ages 18-23, killing all five. The Ford was fully engulfed in flames when he got there, McCallister wrote, and the MS Freight truck was burning.

A Horror Show

As he was questioning Nelson, McCallister says he was notified by EMTs and bystanders that there was still someone in the burning MS Freight truck, so he grabbed the fire extinguisher from his patrol vehicle and ran to it.

“I reached the cab of the truck tractor … and observed a trapped occupant who was currently being burned around the head area,” he wrote in the affidavit. “I observed plastic began to melt around her face. I observed the majority of her face and head to be burned.”

McCallister said he used the extinguisher to knock down the flames and the driver, a woman with a Mississippi driver’s license, was taken to Carbon County Memorial Hospital then life-flighted to the Colorado Burn Center in Greeley, where she was in stable condition.

The trooper also wrote that he initially observed one of the five people in the Ford had been ejected, then later saw the four others burned inside.

Killed were sisters Andrea and Suzy Prime, Salomon Correa, Magdalene “Maggie” Franco and Ava Luplow. All were from Sherwood, Arkansas.

They were driving back to Arkansas after spending a week visiting Jackson Hole Bible College in northwest Wyoming.

Nelson Charged

Along with the five people from Arkansas killed, the severely burned MS Freight driver and injuries to the FedEx driver, the three people in the Infinity suffered minor injuries, but refused further medical treatment at the scene, McCallister wrote.

Seems that although the Dodge Ram truck he was driving rolled, Nelson reported he hadn’t been hurt and didn’t have any noticeable injuries, according to the affidavit.

Nelson had his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon in Carbon County Circuit Court, where he was charged with 11 felonies, including five counts of aggravated homicide.

He’s being held on a $500,000 cash-only bond. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Feb. 1.

Read more about this story:

Wrong-Way Driver Charged With 11 Felonies, Including 5 Counts Of Aggravated Homicide

Father Of Two Daughters Killed On I-80: ‘I Forgive’ Driver Who Caused Fiery Crash

Charges Pending For Driver Who Triggered Chain-Reaction Crash That Killed 5 Students On I-80

Five Students Dead After Wrong-Way Driver Causes Chain Reaction Crash On Interstate 80 Near Rawlins

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Greg Johnson

Managing Editor

Veteran Wyoming journalist Greg Johnson is managing editor for Cowboy State Daily.