A fatal wreck involving multiple vehicles diverted traffic on both sides of Interstate 40 at the White River bridge in Prairie County for most of the day Thursday.
The wreck happened shortly before 8 a.m. in the construction zone at the foot of the bridge near mile marker 200.
Arkansas State Police said one fatality has been confirmed and at least 12 people were taken from the scene by helicopter or ambulance to Little Rock and Stuttgart hospitals.
"Based on initial witness statements, State Troopers preliminarily suspect metal debris from the roadway had become airborne and impacted a vehicle which then stopped in the single lane of eastbound traffic, causing traffic from the rear of the first vehicle to slow and stop," police said in a news release Thursday afternoon. "Seconds later a commercial carrier truck traveling behind the stopped vehicles impacted the blocked roadway causing a chain reaction crash."
By 12:30 p.m., eastbound motorists were being routed onto the westbound lanes to cross the White River before being moved back onto the eastbound highway. Westbound traffic was being diverted at the Hazen exit at mile marker 216.
Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said the wreck was "a pretty big mess."
The department said lanes in both directions were reopened shortly after 4:30 p.m.
Sadler said clearing the accident and then investigating the scene were slowed by the construction zone, which limits the highway to a single lane in the area.
"So it takes a long time for troopers to even get the scene in condition to take measurements and see if story A is lining up with story B," he said.
No information on the person who died was immediately released. It wasn't clear if the person died at the scene or if they died after being taken to a hospital.