SALTWELL — Three unidentified people died and a fourth was flown for advanced medical treatment following an Interstate 79 collision in Harrison County Sunday afternoon.

The crash occurred around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, about one mile north of I-79 Exit 125, the Shinnston/Saltwell Road exit. While southbound lanes remained open, northbound lanes were closed for approximately three hours to allow rescue crews to clear the scene. Northbound lanes opened at about 8 p.m.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. W.J. Bramer released a brief statement about an hour after the accident occurred.

Bramer said the preliminary investigation indicated a car traveling southbound on I-79 crossed the median and collided, head-on, with a car traveling northbound. Both vehicles came to rest off the east side of the highway.

The three individuals in the southbound car died on scene, Bramer said. The driver of the northbound vehicle was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown via HealthNet, he said.

Scanner traffic at the time indicated at least one child was severely injured, but Bramer could not confirm that. Bramer said none of the individuals would be identified or their ages released until their families were notified. A written report from the State Police was expected late Sunday or early Monday morning.

“I heard a big crash and I knew someone was hurt,” said one man at the scene. The individual, who declined to give his name, said he had been standing in the parking lot of the Mountain State Auto Auction on W.Va. Route 73 at the time.

In addition to the WVSP, emergency-response units from Anmore EMS, Bridgeport fire and police departments, Boothsville and Valley volunteer fire departments all responded to the scene. FBI Police provided traffic control as well.

While the northbound lanes of the interstate were closed, traffic was diverted to W.Va. Route 73, resulting in an unusual amount of traffic on the two-lane road. The increase in traffic led to delays, often slowing movement to a crawl.

Sunday evening, officials at Marion County Central Communications confirmed at least two minor accidents occurred on W.Va. Route 73.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.

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