3 killed when big rig swerves to avoid fallen ladder

Published 4:52 pm Friday, October 6, 2006

Three Mississippi women died when their Lexus SUV was hit head-on by a tractor-trailer that had swerved to avoid a ladder fallen from a pickup truck on Interstate 12.

Karen Sheffield, 23, who was driving the Lexus SUV, died at a hospital Thursday night; passengers Betsy Sheffield, 27, and Anita Sheffield, 55, died at the scene, Louisiana state Police said. All were from Picayune, Miss.

The pickup’s driver, Sal Cetrone, 43, was booked with three counts of negligent homicide, negligent injuring and having an unsecured load, state police said.

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The SUV’s engine compartment was shredded by the impact with the big rig, which police said had swerved onto the right shoulder to avoid the 20-foot extension ladder then back to the left, veering across the median.

Two other westbound cars were clipped by the tractor-trailer and ended up in a ditch.

State police say the drivers of those cars and the 18-wheeler had minor injuries.