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4 rigs wreck, blocking I-70

September 22, 1998

I-70 WreckBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




HANCOCK - The eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 near Hancock were closed for more than nine hours Tuesday following a wreck involving four tractor trailers. Traffic was rerouted through the town, causing a backup of more than a quarter mile.

No serious injuries were reported in the 12:34 p.m. accident.

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Crews worked throughout the day to clean up the area. Wreckers were brought in to tow the tractor trailers, Maryland State Police said.

One of the rigs was hauling cars, making removal a difficult job, according to state police Cpl. Greg Spickler. It was that task that caused the delay in reopening the road, Spickler said.

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"It was pretty bad out there earlier but they're making good progress," said Spickler at around 10 p.m.

The road was expected to reopen around 11 p.m. after the final rig was taken away and workers repaired gouges in the interstate caused by the collision, he said.

The incident occurred when a westbound tractor trailer driven by Donald R. Hager, of Goose Creek, S.C., crossed the median into the eastbound lanes.

Spickler said rain was falling at the time of the accident, but said he was unsure whether the weather was a factor in the accident.

Hager's vehicle collided with two other rigs driven by Dana K. Bratsch of Westlake, Ohio, and Richard A. Rockwell of North Calrendon, Vt.

Bratsch's trailer was hauling several cars, police said. When the accident occurred, some of the cars came loose and spilled off the trailer, blocking the traffic lanes.

A fourth trailer driven by Kevin J. Hanlin, 110 Meadowlake Drive, Grantsville, Md., struck Hager's and Bratsch's rigs.

A Toyota pickup truck driven by Joshua D. Stevens, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., swerved into the center median to avoid crashing into the trailers.

Hager and Bratsch sustained minor injuries in the accident. They were taken to the War Memorial Hospital in Berkeley Springs, where they were treated and released.

Interstate traffic was rerouted through Hancock while the trailers were being removed.

While increased traffic flow was a boon for restaurants, it was a headache for drivers and local police.

Hancock Police Chief Donald Gossage said the town experienced five to six times the normal flow of traffic along its Main Street, which is undergoing construction as part of the town's Streetscape renovation project.

"It's caused some problems but generally we've handled it well," he said.

Because of the increased traffic flow, authorities put the traffic light at Main Street on flash after school was dismissed for the day and again later in the evening to accommodate traffic from the Fleetwood and Rayloc plants, he said.

Interstate 70 traffic flowed east on Main Street through town while westbound cars were directed to Church and then High streets.

"Traffic has been very, very heavy but the State Highway Administration has flag men and detour signs to direct traffic. They're doing a good job," he said.

Gossage attributed a minor accident between Limestone and Main streets to the rerouting.

At one point during the day, traffic was backed up about 1/4 of a mile on Main Street from Church Street to Limestone Road, he said.

"It's been bumper to bumper," he said.

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