Man facing charges in Wyoming wreck that killed 5 Arkansans

Arthur Andrew Nelson is shown in this undated booking photo. (Carbon County, Wyo., sheriff's office)
Arthur Andrew Nelson is shown in this undated booking photo. (Carbon County, Wyo., sheriff's office)

A Tennessee man has been charged with 11 crimes, including six felonies, in relation to the car crash that killed five Arkansans in Wyoming on Sunday night.

Arthur Andrew Nelson, 57, of Limestone, Tenn., was charged Wednesday when he made his first appearance in the Carbon County Circuit Court.

The felony charges against Nelson include five for felony aggravated homicide by vehicle due to a DUI. A sixth felony charge is for a DUI with serious bodily injury.

Nelson was also charged with five misdemeanors.

Those include:

• Two counts of reckless endangerment -- one involving a FedEx truck driver and one involving three people in a passenger car.

• One count of reckless driving.

• One count of driving the wrong way on a divided highway.

• One count of driving under a suspended license.

The five people killed in the crash were friends connected to Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood as well as Faith Bible Fellowship Church in North Little Rock.

[Read Charging documents »]

Two of them -- Susana "Suzy" Prime, 18, and Ava Luplow, 18 -- were current students at the high school. The others -- Andrea Prime, 23; Salomon Correa, 21; and Maggie Franco, 20 -- were former students.

The group of five were on their way back to Arkansas after visiting Jackson Hole Bible College in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

The ensuing accident was the deadliest car crash in Wyoming since at least 2019, according to data available from the state's Department of Transportation.

According to charging documents, the multicar car crash happened at mile marker 219 on Interstate 80 east of Rawlins, Wyo., which is roughly 280 miles southeast of Jackson Hole.

At 6:52 p.m Sunday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol was notified of a vehicle driving the wrong way on I-80. Six minutes later, they received a report of the ensuing crash.

According to the highway patrol, based on a preliminary investigation, the vehicle -- a Dodge Ram 3500 driven by Nelson [and registered to him in West Jordan, Utah] -- was traveling in the wrong direction. Nelson collided with a FedEx truck and the Infiniti SUV.

As Nelson's truck collided with the passenger car, the driver of an MS Freight truck attempted to avoid Nelson by swerving across the median and into the eastbound lanes. It was then that it collided head-on with the Ford F-150 occupied by the group from Arkansas.

According to the highway patrol, the MS Freight truck slowly caught fire and the Ford F-150 was immediately engulfed in flames.

One of the Arkansans, Ava Luplow, had been ejected from the truck and was the first victim identified by authorities.

When Nelson was questioned at the scene, he reportedly told troopers that he had been on his way to Tennessee from Utah.

Further investigation at the scene revealed Nelson had been driving under a suspended license due to a previous DUI.

After being taken to a local hospital, Nelson reportedly told troopers that he had taken methamphetamine the day before.

When a trooper told Nelson he should not have been driving, Nelson reportedly responded, "that's a lesson to be learned."

Nelson is being held on $500,000 bond. He has a probable cause hearing scheduled for Feb. 1 at 3:30 p.m. local time.

If probable cause is found, the case will then go to district court for final disposition.

According to the charging documents, the maximum sentence for felony aggravated homicide by vehicle is 20 years or a fine of $10,000.

The maximum for a DUI with a controlled substance with serious bodily injury is 10 years and a fine between $2,000 and $5,000.

Phil Prime, the father of Suzy and Andrea Prime, was interviewed by the Wyoming newspaper Cowboy State Daily.

Prime told the outlet that one of his daughters had a feature on her phone that would send out an alert if she were in a suspected car crash.

Prime received that alert on his iPhone Sunday night.

The alert "was all the information we had for about six hours or so," Prime said. "That was it until we got confirmation from the police."

Prime said he forgave Nelson for his alleged actions in the wreck that killed his daughters.

"I would love to have five minutes with him, to share the gospel, to tell him I forgive him," Prime said. "I could wish him the worst, but he's already going to get that.

"What can I say or do to that person that would actually help me or my family? Nothing. I'm not going to cry for 100 years in jail. That's not going to do anything for my kids."

The Prime sisters had both worked at The Humble Crumb Bakery in Sherwood.

The bakery announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that it would close for two weeks "while we process, remember, praise, rebuild, and rest."

"Our lives are forever changed and the bakery will continually feel this void," the post added. "Our small team lost two of our own, two of our gems, on Sunday."

Faith Bible Fellowship Church announced Tuesday there would be a combined funeral service held for the crash victims.

It will be at 10 a.m. on Feb. 4 at the Sylvan Hills High School Performing Arts Center.

The visitation will be held Feb. 3 from 5-7 p.m. at the church.

Upcoming Events