UPDATE: Deadly Crash Congests Highway Traffic

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AVOCA -- Investigators in Luzerne County say they're trying to figure out why two men from Lackawanna County stopped a minivan in the middle of interstate 81 early Wednesday morning.

Both men died when a tractor-trailer rear-ended the van.

A woman who knows both of the men who died in this crash says she has no idea why they would stop their minivan on the busy stretch of highway.

The northbound lanes in the Avoca area were closed for nearly seven hours which caused big backups during the morning rush.

State police believe the mangled mess left behind on northbound interstate 81 in Luzerne County was the result of a minivan that had stopped in the middle of the highway.

Troopers say a flatbed tractor-trailer slammed into the minivan around 2:30 a.m. near the exit for Avoca and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

The driver of the van, Anthony Lizza, 58, of Old Forge and the passenger Jeffrey Godeck, 52, of Moosic both died.

The driver of the rig, Charles Brown, 62, of Sugarloaf, was taken to the hospital.

The wreck closed the northbound lanes of the highway for nearly seven hours.

Drivers were stuck in detour backlogs as investigators cleaned up the wreck and tried to piece together how the crash happened.

PennDOT officials say even in the early morning hours with little traffic drivers should never stop on 81.

"If you ever make a mistake on an interstate or you realize you missed your turn or that you went too far, it's never a good idea to back up, never a good idea to stop along the interstate," said PennDOT spokesman James May.

The coroner's office says there will not be autopsies on the crash victims.

This wreck happened at the same place on I-81 where PennDOT plans to start making safety improvements later this summer.

Newswatch 16 spoke to people who knew the victims. Click here for more.