Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

November 17, 2010

I-77 crashes claim 2, injure 20

WYTHEVILLE, Va. — Two people were killed Tuesday and 20 others injured following multiple crashes involving about 50 vehicles on a foggy stretch of Interstate 77 in southwestern Virginia.

The southbound lanes were closed from Wytheville to the North Carolina border until 9 p.m. after several crashes occured around 11:39 a.m. in the Fancy Gap, Va., area of Carroll County. The accidents were spread between the 3 and 7 mile markers along I-77.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said dozens of troopers and emergency workers were working to clear the interstate from vehicles that are stacked on top of one another and tractor-trailers that are jackknifed or turned on their sides. At least half of the vehicles involved in the crashes were commercial vehicles, such as tractor-trailers.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina, where four were in critical condition. State police were still working to notify the next of kin of the two individuals killed in the southbound crashes, though they said neither individual killed was a Virginia resident.

While state police were attempting to clear the southbound lanes, two separate crashes occurred in the northbound lane of I-77 in the same area around 5 p.m. Traffic in the northbound lane was then shut down until around 6:45 p.m.  The northbound crashes occurred around mile marker 7, the first involving two tractor-trailers. After the first crash, a third tractor-trailer ran off into the median. No one was injured in either of the northbound crashes.

A traffic diversion was set up at the I-77 and I-81 interchange to stop traffic from becoming backed up near the scene of the crashes. Detours rerouted southbound traffic through Route 21, Route 52 and Route 58.

Geller said heavy fog in the Fancy Gap area reduced visibility to zero around the time of the crashes.

According to Sgt. M.T. Conroy, a public information officer with the Virginia State Police, the state police were conducting “slow rolls,” ensuring traffic was kept slowly moving to prevent any further collisions. State police were still reporting heaving fog in the Fancy Gap area as of 9 p.m.

State police said both lanes of southbound traffic were reopened at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, state police were also conducting slow rolls on the southbound lanes due to continuing fog.

During slow rolls, troopers position themselves with emergency lights activated in front of the traffic in both lanes and set a safe speed for all traffic to follow behind.

Virginia State Police advised drivers to be careful in the fog, driving with headlights on but not using high beams, reducing speed considerably, paying attention to drivers in front of their vehicles, use edges of the road and painted guidelines, and to be patient in stopped traffic.

Virginia State Police are still investigating the causes of the crashes.

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