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Probe of I-81 tieup continues

December 20, 2008

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An accident Thursday night that shut down the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 in Berkeley County for nearly 12 hours remained under investigation Friday, but police said they had not found any driver at fault.

Three people were injured in the four-vehicle accident, including a Boonsboro woman who police said was flown to a shock trauma unit after being taken to Washington County Hospital. Her name and condition were not available Friday from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

A relative of the unidentified injured woman, Carolyn J. Green, 67, of Boonsboro, was treated at Washington County Hospital and released Thursday, according to police and a hospital spokesperson.

Tractor-trailer driver Osbalbo Diaz-Mendoza, 47, of Cape Coral, Fla., was treated for minor injuries at an area hospital, police said.

The tractor-trailer was hauling more than 400, 32-inch Sylvania flat-screen televisions, half a load of concentrated canned milk and two skids of BBQ potato chips when it collided head-on with a passenger car at about 5:50 p.m., police said. The car's driver was trapped in the vehicle, according to police.

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The trailer broke in half and had to be unloaded, forcing a traffic tie-up in both directions of I-81 long into the night. Motorists used U.S. 11, U.S. 340 and U.S. 522 as alternate routes, deputies said.

The crash occurred when a southbound box truck lost a front wheel and tire due to mechanical failure, deputies said. The detached wheel and tire crossed the median strip into the northbound lanes, where they struck a northbound vehicle, causing minor damage, deputies said. The northbound tractor-trailer also struck the wheel and tire, then lost control, crossed into the median and overturned, deputies said. 

The overturned tractor-trailer clipped the back of a southbound pickup truck, causing minor damage, then slid on its side into the southbound lanes, where it collided head-on with the passenger car, deputies said. The female driver of the car had the most severe injuries, deputies said.

Interstate traffic returned to normal by 4:30 a.m. Friday, deputies said.

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