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Accidents clog traffic on Interstate 81

September 20, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two accidents in less than 45 minutes on the northbound lanes of Interstate 81 Tuesday afternoon clogged traffic in the Martinsburg area for hours, but no one was seriously injured, West Virginia State Police said.

A tractor-trailer hauling watermelons from Texas to the New York City area flipped on its side a little more than a mile north of Exit 13 about 2:45 p.m. after the driver successfully avoided a collision with other vehicles, Trooper K.D. Castle said.

Driver Lyle Seamon, 51, of Oviedo, Fla., was treated at City Hospital for a head injury that was not believed to be serious, Castle said.

Seamon's nephew, Alan Ray, 18, was riding in the "sleeper cabin" of the truck and was treated for bumps and bruises, Castle said.

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Seamon told police that another motorist "cut him off" and in his attempt to avoid a collision, crossed the median of interstate to the southbound lanes where the trailer flipped on its side in the passing and middle lanes. The cab came to rest in the north bound passing lane.

No watermelons spilled from the trailer, but the weight of them shifted while Seamon was attempting to "correct" his situation, causing the container to flip, Castle said.

Seamon was not cited, Castle said.

Police believe the tractor-trailer wreck led to the second, three-vehicle accident about 3:25 p.m., near an off ramp for Exit 13. All three drivers refused medical treatment, Trooper J.D. Schuessler said.

Tractor-trailer driver Carl Peterson, 49, of Roanoke, Va., was cited for failure to maintain control after his vehicle jack-knifed and struck a truck driven by Marcella Biddle, 62, of Duncansville, Pa., Schuessler said.

Biddle's vehicle flipped on its side and came to rest off the northbound lanes of I-81, Schuessler said.

A second tractor-trailer driven by Andrew Wareham, 26, of Mount Jewett, Pa., was struck by Peterson's vehicle after the truck, but did not overturn, Schuessler said.

Castle said the truck hauling watermelons damaged about 600 feet of cable barrier separating the north and southbound lanes. The accidents forced interstate traffic into downtown Martinsburg for more than three hours. Southbound traffic on U.S. 11 was clogged, with vehicles backed up to the Bedington Crossroads store.

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