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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Barge Collapses Arkansas River Bridge

WEBBERS FALLS, Oklahoma -- U.S. rescue workers probed a submerged pile of mangled vehicles Monday searching for victims from a line of cars that plunged into the Arkansas River after a bridge was struck by a barge and collapsed.

Police said they recovered three bodies Sunday night and expected to find about nine more from a spot where they estimate as many as a dozen vehicles plunged about 30 meters into the river Sunday when the barge collapsed a 150-meter section of the Interstate 40 bridge.

"It's a horrible scene down there," one diver told reporters.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol had believed six to 11 people were trapped and feared dead in about nine vehicles the previous day but increased their estimates based on divers' accounts of the scene and evidence from witnesses.

Authorities said they were working to determine the identity of the first three confirmed victims -- two women and one man -- of the crash and expected to pull several more vehicles from about 3.5 meters of water. The accident site is about 95 kilometers south of Tulsa.

The captain of the empty oil barge, Joe Dedmon, apparently passed out at the controls after suffering a seizure and slammed into an unprotected part of the bridge, causing a massive section to give way, police said.

Police said tests on Dedmon for drugs and alcohol were negative. Dedmon, who has 30 years experience piloting riverboats, is being treated at an area hospital.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they were decreasing the amount of water released from dams upstream in order to slow the flow along the Arkansas River.

Rescue workers recovered one car, a pickup truck, a motor home and a horse trailer with three dead horses trapped inside from the accident site Sunday.

The crash cut traffic on a major east-west thoroughfare and halted river traffic on Oklahoma's main inland waterway.

Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, who toured the crash site earlier, told CNN on Sunday night that there was still no confirmation of the number of people killed. "The people who survived came out right at the start. Those who didn't make it, obviously, are still in the water," Keating said.

Four people were plucked from the river and treated at the Muskogee Regional Medical Center. None of the injured suffered life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.

The injured were a 37-year-old man from Missouri, a 62-year-old man from Arkansas and a couple in their 60s from Oklahoma, the hospital said.

The bridge carries Interstate 40, the main cross-state route connecting Oklahoma City with Little Rock, Arkansas, and Amarillo, Texas. The interstate was closed in both directions, the highway patrol said.