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Van crash kills 3, injures 8 in Jackson County
Authorities suspect driver fell asleep
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Investigators work at a scene where authorities say three people died early Monday when a van carrying members of two heavy metal bands crashed near the town of Commerce. - photo by Bob Andres

COMMERCE — Three people were killed and eight were injured Monday when a van carrying members of two heavy metal bands careened off Interstate 85 and down an embankment in Jackson County, authorities said.

The 15-passenger van was carrying 12 people from South Carolina toward Atlanta when it went off Interstate 85 at the exit ramp to Ga. Highway 98 at about 7 a.m. Monday, authorities said.

Of those injured, six were listed in critical condition, according to Steve Nichols, Jackson County director of Emergency Services.

Patients were transported to Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens and Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, he said.

The van’s driver “apparently fell asleep and allowed the vehicle to leave the roadway, at which time the vehicle struck a tree on the passenger side,” Georgia State Patrol Cpl. Scott Smith said. Three passengers were ejected, authorities said.

The occupants of the van were members of two heavy metal bands that were traveling together and pulling a trailer with the musicians’ equipment, Smith said.

“We cannot confirm the name of the bands or passengers at this time,” Frank Young of the Department of Public Safety said in the statement sent at 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The van’s driver was not injured, Young said, adding that families of those involved were still being notified.

The crash caused traffic to back up in the area along the interstate, a key route between Georgia and the Carolinas, said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Nichols said units from Commerce Fire/Rescue, Maysville Rescue and Jackson County EMS responded and nine passengers were transported by EMS.

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