A passing storm and subsequent wet highways were attributed to causing a fiery seven-vehicle crash including three tractor-trailer rigs recently on Interstate 40 in Cocke County Tennessee not far from the North Carolina state line.
Police told WBIR News, an NBC affiliate, the wreck happened around 3:30 p.m. near the town of Hartford. Two of the semi trucks involved quickly became engulfed in flames as other truck drivers rushed to help. A third truck carrying hazardous materials didn’t receive much damage in the accident.
“They’re telling me it had heavy rains at the time traffic had slowed down, the driver of the first vehicle had hydroplaned and he had applied his brakes, the vehicle behind him had struck him, which started a chain reaction,” said THP Trooper Jeff Coffey.
“The truck started catching on fire the minute the accident happened and he [the truck driver] was pinned in the driver’s side,” said trucker driver Dale Wood, who was near the crash.
Wood said people didn’t hesitate to help even though fires had already started.
“So we went up with our fire extinguishers and extinguished it enough. A couple of other drivers cut off his seatbelt and pried open the door enough to get him out and then the truck went up in flames,” he said.
Authorities shut down both sides of the interstate as firefighters worked to put out the fire.
Only minor injuries were reported; two victims were treated and released from Newport’s hospital.
The accident had drivers stranded on the interstate, in some cases, for as long as four hours or more.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol said the backup extended a half mile over the state line.