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A tanker truck carrying gasoline slid into two vehicles doing a road check, witnesses said.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Three men were killed Wednesday afternoon in a fiery crash on Interstate 81 in Smyth County.
Virginia State Police responded to a multi vehicle wreck a few minutes before 3:30 p.m. near mile marker 54 on I-81 south, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a release.
She said a 2009 Chevrolet pickup truck was on the right shoulder of I-81 south conducting a roadway inspection while a GMC highway crash cushion truck was in the right lane traveling with it.
A tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline was traveling in the left lane on I-81 south . Witnesses at the scene said it swerved and overcorrected, the news release said.
“The tanker’s load shifted and overturned onto its side across both southbound lanes,” the release said. “The tanker truck slid into the pickup truck, exploded and then collided with the crash cushion truck.”
All three vehicles caught on fire and smoke billowed across the traffic lanes.
The driver of the tanker truck, Frank A. Skeens Jr., 48, of Castlewood, and the pickup truck driver, Trevor Blankenship, 30, of Lebanon, both died at the scene. The driver of the crash cushion truck died on the way to the hospital, the release said, but police are still in the process of notifying his next of kin before his name is released.
According to the release, witnesses told police the crash cushion truck had its arrow flashing to warn traffic about the pickup truck.
Smoke and flames from the crash closed down all lanes of I-81 near mile marker 54 at one point. Six hours after the wreck , traffic was still being detoured and was backed up for more than 5 miles, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
By 11 p.m. the I-81 south lanes were still closed and there were still significant traffic delays. The state police news release said because of the intensity of the explosion and the fire, VDOT is assessing the condition of the pavement.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. The Virginia State Police Wytheville Division Accident Reconstruction Team is assisting with the crash investigation, the police news release said.
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