2017-04-21 / Front Page

I-85 wreck causes traffic jam in Blacksburg

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

A Wednesday morning accident involving an overturned tractor trailer led to a miles long traffic backup and traffic congestion throughout Blacksburg.

The accident occurred at 9:55 a.m. as two tractor trailers were headed north on Interstate 85 near the 102 Mile Marker in Blacksburg, according to Lance Cpl. Gary Miller of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. A 49-year-old man from Ellenwood, Ga., driving a 2012 International tractor-trailer rear-ended a 2017 International tractor-trailer driven by a 56-year-old Vale, N.C. man, Miller said. The impact caused the Vale man’s tractor-trailer to travel off the right side of the highway where it struck an embankment and overturned, blocking the northbound lanes of the interstate.

The driver from Georgia was wearing a seat belt and was not injured, Miller said, while the driver in the truck that overturned was taken to Mary Black Health System - Gaffney for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Cherokee County Emergency Management Director Rick Peterson said the overturned tractor-trailer was hauling scrap metal while the second tractortrailer, which did not suffer any cargo damage, was hauling pharmaceuticals.

Peterson said the overturned vehicle did leak some fuel, but the leak was small.

The northbound lanes of the highway were completely blocked for about 30 to 45 minutes after the initial collision and officials were ultimately able to reopen one lane. Peterson, who spent at least four hours at the accident site, said authorities had to temporarily shut down the lanes a second time in order to allow crews to remove the overturned vehicle. Luckily, he said, authorities were able to direct traffic onto the 102 Mile Marker exit and entrance ramps to bypass the accident scene.

Live camera footage from the SCDOT’s network of traffic cameras, which are located every mile of Interstate 85 in the Upstate, showed northbound traffic had backed up all the way to the Broad River at some points, a distance of about 5 miles. With traffic either stopped or crawling, many drivers tried to use Highway 29 through downtown Blacksburg as a detour, congesting that roadway as well.

“They started getting off at the 100 (mile marker exit), and then at the 96,” said Blacksburg Police Chief Jamie Ham. “We were basically getting a full load of interstate traffic coming through town.”

The congestion in downtown Blacksburg lasted more than two hours, Ham estimated.

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