A 16-mile stretch of I-95 in Johnson County, North Carolina was shut down after three major crashes occurred with hours and miles of each other. One of the crashes also caused the evacuation of everyone within a three-mile radius of the crash area.
On October 20th, at approximately, 1 p.m., a tractor-trailer ran off the road and struck a tree line. The crash pinned the driver inside the cab of the truck and emergency responders had to cut the cab to remove him. This crash caused onlookers to slow down and see what was happening.
Because of that slowdown, traffic began backing up and a half an hour later, just five miles down the road, an RV slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer, which was carrying hazardous material. There was an explosion and both vehicles burst into flames.
According to official reports, the tractor-trailer was transporting:
- Trichloroisocyanuric acid, dry;
- Calcium hypochlorite, hydrated;
- Oxidizing solid, n.o.s.; and
- Corrosive solid, acidic, inorganic, n.o.s.
The chemical fire caused thick, billowing smoke to flow from the crash and could be seen for miles. Because of the potential dangers of the toxic fire, everyone within a three-mile radius of the crash was ordered to shelter in place. Drivers who were stuck on the highway were told to leave their vehicles and evacuate. Several schools were set up as evacuation centers.
Some people exposed to the toxic brown smoke were taken to area hospitals for treatment and evaluation. Victims described symptoms of feeling as if their throats were closing and of feeling nauseous. Heat from the flames of the burning fire was so strong that it burned holes into the road surface.
Shortly after that crash, and again just miles away, a tractor-trailer crashed into the back of an RV, causing the RV to lose control. It was then hit by a second tractor-trailer. That truck also rear-ended another vehicle, causing the vehicle to smash into the back of a third tractor-trailer.
Two people in the RV were killed instantly and a third was listed in serious condition. An occupant in one of the trucks was also seriously injured in the crash.
With millions of tractor-trailers hauling hazardous materials on our nation’s roads, it is inevitable that there will be crashes which involve spillage, leakage, and other dangers associated with these toxic chemicals. It is crucial for communities to be prepared for these events in order to reduce the number of casualties. Emergency Film Group offers many programs which can assist in that training, including Protective Actions: Evacuation/Shelter in Place, Incident Command System (ICS) for Industry Series, and Hazmat/WMD Awareness.