Thursday, March 9, 2000 | 9:25 a.m.
JEAN, Nev. - A van crowded with 13 people flipped over several times in front of two casinos outside Las Vegas, killing eight and injuring the rest.
Amid the bodies thrown from the vehicle, authorities picked through wreckage that included a rearview mirror and sun visors as well as a purse, shoes and luggage.
"It's the worst one I've seen, as far as a single vehicle accident," in several years, Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Michael Cooke said.
The van skidded across an interstate highway, plunged down a steep highway median and flipped over several times Wednesday afternoon.
It was headed toward Las Vegas when it rolled over about 30 miles south of the city. The driver veered off the left side of the interstate, then overcorrected, sending the van across the road and down the gravel median, the Nevada Highway Patrol said.
Eight people were thrown from the van, and seven of them were killed, Cooke said. The only person in the van wearing a seat belt was among the survivors, authorities said.
"I wouldn't say they were going too fast," said trucker Paul Green, who witnessed the crash. "They just lost control and hit the guard rail and got launched off."
Green told KCAL-TV in Los Angeles that he tried to help the victims by "checking to see if they had pulses, to see who needed help first."
"The first two I came across was fatalities, and then there was a live one but he ended up passing away," he said.
The large green 2000 Dodge van was registered in California to Rental Car Finance Corp., an Ohio company. Authorities said they did not immediately know the relationship of the people in the van.
A bottle of alcohol was found among suitcases strewn around the scene, but the Highway Patrol said it was unknown whether alcohol played a role in the accident. Road conditions did not appear to have been a factor and no other vehicles were involved.
The accident occurred shortly after 1 p.m. between the two hotel-casinos that straddle Interstate 15 in the small community of Jean.
The injured victims, three men in their 60s, a woman in her 60s and a woman in her 50s, were in fair condition at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.