The pileup started after a minibus driver noticed a car approaching quickly from behind and collided with a tanker truck while attempting to get out of the way. The minibus spun out of control before coming to halt in the middle of the motorway.
Other drivers secured the accident site, but a few minutes later another vehicle with six passengers tried to pass on the shoulder at high speed, according to Münster police. As the driver slammed into a parked truck two passengers were thrown from the vehicle and killed. Two of the truck's other passengers died in the vehicle and the remaining two passengers suffered serious injuries.
The A31 near Kirchhellen towards Emden will remain closed until further notice.