CLEAR BROOK — Two tractor-trailer drivers are dead and a third suffered a minor injury in a four-vehicle crash on Interstate 81, about 3:50 p.m. today.
Authorities said a northbound tractor-trailer was about two miles north of exit 317 when it blew a tire. The tractor-trailer swerved left, clipped a Ford Mustang and then drove through the median. It hit a southbound tractor-trailer head on.
Both drivers were killed. Their identities have not been released.
The Mustang driver was unhurt.
James Dull, 53, of Staunton, the driver of a third tractor-trailer, was driving southbound in the right lane when the crash occurred. He said he swerved to avoid the northbound truck and struck the back of it.
Dull, who sustained a minor left-knee injury, crashed into the backyard of a home at 364 Fair Lane.
“I didn’t even have time to apply the brakes,” he said.
Amy Hayes of Inwood, W.Va., was driving to work when the accident occurred in front of her.
Hayes said she had to slam on her brakes to avoid running into an 18-wheeler that had flipped and was starting to burn in the southbound lanes.
“The fire started as a trickle, then it got bigger and bigger,” said Hayes, who came to a stop about 50 feet from the crash. “It was horrific.”
Other motorists were approaching the tractor-trailers involved in the accident to offer assistance when Hayes said there was an explosion and everyone ran back to safety.
Hayes felt trapped, with a deep culvert between her and the northbound lanes, and an increasing number of cars behind her.
“I was sitting there screaming, ‘What do I do?’” she said. “The fire was getting hot. I was too close. It was chaos.”
A truck driver who was not involved in the accident came to Hayes’s assistance, guiding her safely across the median so she could drive north to Exit 321 and continue her commute to work on U.S. 11 South.
Traffic at the site of the crash near the 319 mile marker was still impacted in the southbound lanes nearly three hours after the crash.
Southbound traffic was being detoured off of Exit 321, onto U.S. 11 and back onto I-81 southbound three hours after the crash.
Northbound traffic reopened around 6:15.
VDOT said in a release that traffic was backed up approximately 7 miles.