The fiery crash that killed four people and injured about a dozen more on Interstate 12 in Covington on Saturday afternoon started when an 18-wheeler hauling avocados failed to stop as the driver approached stalled traffic, Louisiana State Police said.

A State Police spokeswoman on Sunday identified three of the dead as Yoland Simmons and Keland Simmons, both of Baton Rouge, and Mandeville resident Rachel Lehmann.

The driver of the 18-wheeler hauling avocados also died in the crash, according to trooper Melissa Matey, but that person's identity hasn't yet been confirmed.

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The crash, which involved two 18-wheelers and eight other vehicles, happened about 4 p.m. Saturday on the I-12 overpass over La. 21 and shut down the entire eastbound portion of I-12, leaving just one westbound lane open.

According to Matey, on-scene evidence and investigation by State Police revealed that right before the crash, traffic was stopped or slowing to a stop on I-12 eastbound because of congestion.

The 18-wheeler hauling avocados was traveling in the right lane on I-12 and, for unknown reasons, failed to stop. It started a chain-reaction crash with nine other vehicles, Matey said in a news release.

The 18-wheeler jackknifed during the crash and caught fire, along with three other vehicles, she said.

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Video courtesy of Brittany Breaux

During the crash, a 2014 Lexus IS350 was struck by the 18-wheeler. The driver and passenger in that vehicle, the Simmonses, died at the scene.

Lehmann, who was driving a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, was also struck by the 18-wheeler, according to the release. She was taken to a hospital, where she later died.

Several other victims, including a St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy, were taken to local hospitals with minor or moderate injuries. Matey said all of them are expected to make a full recovery. The deputy was released from a hospital later Saturday. 

Whether driver impairment was involved in the crash has not been determined. Results of toxicology tests are pending, Matey said, adding that the crash investigation remains "very active and ongoing."

After being closed since 4 p.m., the eastbound highway was reopened about 2 a.m. Sunday.

Authorities said first responders from all over western St. Tammany Parish responded to the crash, including Fire Districts No. 2, No. 4, No. 8, No. 12 and No. 13, the Covington Fire Department and the Sheriff's Office.

As the crash scene was active, one of the 18-wheelers was completely engulfed in flames, causing many witnesses to stop and take pictures and video of the accident.

"Crashes like this are horrific, and they don't just affect the first responders on the scene. They also affect all the families involved, the communities they live in. It's a widespread effect, and it's usually because people don't pay attention behind the wheel," Matey said.

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Follow Della Hasselle on Twitter, @dellahasselle.