April 13, 2016 Edition

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Michael Cochran, a member of the Walnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, helps man a roadblock on Highway 412, near Walmart in Walnut Ridge, Sunday afternoon, as vehicles are seen emerging from a wall of dust. Traffic was only allowed to flow eastbound, due to the dust storm, but even with the preventative measures, an accident later in the day resulted in one fatality.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

Dust storm causes
accidents, fatality

Gretchen Hunt

For the second time this spring, strong winds stirred up dirt from fields causing a dust storm on Sunday that resulted in near zero visibility. Two multi-vehicle accidents occurred as a result of the storm, with numerous injuries and one fatality.

The National Weather Service issued a dust storm warning for six northeast Arkansas counties, including Lawrence County, on Sunday. The most affected areas in Lawrence County were a section of Highway 63 near Portia and a section of Highway 412 near Walmart in Walnut Ridge.

A 12-vehicle pileup occurred at 12:40 p.m. on Sunday on Highway 63, just south of the Portia City limits. The highway had to be closed and traffic rerouted while multiple agencies worked the scene.

Eleven were transported to area hospitals with injuries.

Later in the afternoon, a five-vehicle accident in Walnut Ridge resulted in three injuries and one fatality, according to a fatal crash summary released by the Arkansas State Police.

According to Corporal Anthony Dail, Benjamin R. Brantley, age 50, of Brooksville, Fla., was killed when the Ford F250 he was driving eastbound on Highway 412 was involved in a five-vehicle collision.

"The collision occurred as vehicles slowed due to near zero visibility," Dail said in the report.

Brantley was a subcontractor at the American Silica site in Black Rock.

Dan Cook, vice president and general manager of American Silica, said Brantley and his father have worked with American Silica on many projects.

"He was not our employee, but he was part of the American Silica family," Cook said.

The Walnut Ridge Fire Department and other emergency personnel manned a roadblock near Walmart Sunday afternoon, and the westbound lanes were closed at the time of the accident.

Both Highway 63 and Highway 412 were shut down completely following the accidents.

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