UPDATE: 2 dead in wrong-way Salem crash | News

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SALEM — Two people died in a wrong-way crash involving as many as five vehicles about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on the southern end of Salem’s Highland Avenue.

Traffic was fairly heavy at that hour on the well-traveled street when, according to police, a white 2009 Ford Focus sedan, heading north in the southbound lane of the divided highway, slammed almost head-on into an oncoming black Ford compact SUV.

The entire front half of the white Focus was destroyed, killing the driver and front seat passenger. Much of what was left of the car was pushed into the back seat, where the second passenger managed to survive.

Police said the two front-seat occupants — an elderly male and a female — were declared dead on scene. The back seat occupant, who had to be freed with a hydraulic extraction tool, was transported to Salem Hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries.

The operator of a third vehicle was also transported to Salem Hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries. That car sustained serious damage to its driver-side front end but the driver apparently suffered only minor injuries

Police said two other vehicles were involved, but the drivers suffered only minor injuries.

Some witnesses told police the one-way car appeared to be traveling at a high rate of speed compared to other vehicles on the road.

Police are still trying to determine where the car entered Highland Avenue and are reviewing security camera footage in the area for clues.

The crash took place directly across Highland Avenue from the Northeast Animal Shelter. It is a wide, four-lane highway divided by a steel rail dividing north and southbound lanes. The southbound lane in that area is bounded on the immediate right by a steep stone bank.

As of 7 p.m., the bodies of the victims had still not been removed from the Focus, which was blanketed in white sheets. Before they were finally eased out, firefighters put up a red tarp, blocking the scene from onlookers.

Highland Avenue was shut down in both directions, from Marlborough to Ravenna roads shortly after the accident was reported. The northbound lane was reopened about 6 p.m., and all lanes were open by 8:30

The accident remains under investigation.

In addition to Salem police and firefighters, Swampscott, Peabody and Lynn police, fire and emergency personnel assisted at the scene.

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