STANLEY, N.D. - A five-vehicle crash that involved an oil tanker that exploded killed three people and injured three more east of here at 6:40 a.m. Friday, said the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

A tanker loaded with crude oil driven by Vernon Wright, 49, of Hiram, Ga., was eastbound on U.S. Highway 2 en route to a location northeast of Stanley, the Highway Patrol said.

The tanker was turning north on a gravel road three miles east of Stanley in heavy dense fog. Ricky Hovland, 54, of Minot, who was heading west on Highway 2 in a Ford F-150 pickup, braked and turned right to attempt to avoid a collision with the oil tanker, authorities said.

The tanker struck the left side of the pickup, which entered a ditch, overturned and came to rest on the driver's side.

A Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by a 41-year-old Minot man then struck the right side of the tanker, and a Freightliner Vac truck driven by John Ofsthun, 55, of Granville, struck the rear of the Silverado pickup and the right side of the tanker trailer.

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A GMC Sierra pickup driven by a 26-year-old Wahpeton man then struck the rear of the vac truck and the right side of the oil tanker. The tanker trailer exploded after impact and began to burn.

All vehicles but the Ford F-150 caught fire.

Wright, Hovland and Ofsthun left their vehicles and moved to safety.

The 41-year-old Minot man, the 26-year-old Wahpeton man and a 23-year-old passenger in the Wahpeton man's pickup died, the Highway Patrol said. The names were withheld pending notification of family.

After the crash, a Ford F-450 truck towing a trailer swerved into the ditch and became stuck but did not strike any vehicles in the crash.

The vehicles burned for about five hours, closing down U.S. Highway 2 until late Friday afternoon.