Incidents delay I-81 traffic for hours

August 28, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Debris from a truck fire and drivers who were "rubbernecking" caused traffic delays on northbound Interstate 81 for several hours Sunday, according to Maryland State Police.

Crews will return at about 7 a.m. today to remove debris from a section of I-81 in Halfway where a truck caught fire, Sgt. Robert Reid said.

According to police, northbound I-81 was closed for about 45 minutes after a Graebel Van Lines moving truck caught fire. Though no one was hurt, debris caused the closure of one lane of traffic for several hours, and drivers slowing down to see what was going on tied up traffic for miles into West Virginia, Reid said.

"Because of rubbernecking, the traffic wouldn't move," Reid said.

According to a Washington County Emergency Services dispatcher, two incidents were reported on I-81 North just after noon Sunday. The first incident, a two-vehicle crash at the two-mile marker in Williamsport, occurred at 12:13 p.m. The vehicle fire at the five-mile marker was reported three minutes later, the dispatcher said.


Fred Cole, deputy chief of Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co., said he believed some of the congestion on I-81 was due to Williamsport Days. Crews responding to the first accident experienced some of the traffic tie-ups themselves, he said.

"It was tough getting up through there," Cole said.

Two people were taken to Washington County Hospital after the first accident, which involved a pickup truck and a car, Cole said. Neither person was seriously hurt, and crews were able to reopen one lane of northbound I-81 within minutes, he said.

According to a press release from Maryland State Police, Americo Fuentes, 39, of Texas, was driving a tractor-trailer filled with furniture when the vehicle's brakes overheated and caught fire. The fire spread to the furniture and engulfed the trailer, police said. Fuentes separated the truck from the trailer, and he was not injured, police said.

Fire and rescue units from Halfway, Maugansville, Longmeadow and Civil Defense responded to the scene, according to police.

Reid said crews initially removed some of the furniture to put out the fire, but as darkness fell, they decided to leave some debris removal for this morning. Sunday nights bring the heaviest truck traffic of the week to I-81, Reid said.

Truckers typically begin their East Coast runs on Sundays, Reid said. Traffic likely will be lighter this morning.

"There's more traffic out on Sunday night than we have at any other time of the week because of the trucks," he said.

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