clear
Friday May 22nd, 2015 9:02AM

Authorities: 4 dead in fiery highway crash in Ga.

By The Associated Press
MONTROSE, Ga. (AP) More than two dozen cars, pickup trucks and tractor-trailers collided Wednesday morning in a fiery pileup on a foggy Georgia interstate, killing at least four people and sending nine others to a hospital, officials said.

Work crews on Interstate 16 were still clearing charred and twisted wreckage from the crash scene, which covered nearly a quarter-mile of the roadway, nearly six hours after the chain of crashes occurred at about 8:10 a.m. Crews initially reported three deaths before finding another person dead in the wreckage later Wednesday.

The Georgia State Patrol was still trying to piece together what started the series of wrecks involving 27 vehicles. Capt. Kirk McGlamery said even drivers who dodged to the side of cars crashing in front of them weren't safe from getting rear-ended off the highway's shoulder.

``It was just a chain-reaction,'' McGlamery said. ``I talked to two individuals involved who had come to a stop and had pulled off, one was on the shoulder and the other was trying to get out of the way, when they were struck by vehicles coming up behind them.''

Officials said poor visibility likely played a big part. Weather forecasts called for dense fog Wednesday morning, and McGlamery said motorists reported smoke across the highway. He said a controlled burn had been permitted nearby the day before, and troopers were trying to find out if burning continued into Wednesday.

The crash shut down I-16 in both directions for several hours, though a single eastbound lane had opened Wednesday afternoon. The highway covers only 170 miles between nearby Macon in central Georgia and Savannah on the coast. But it's heavily traveled by commercial trucks hauling goods between Atlanta and Savannah's busy seaport, and is often used by travelers as a route to Interstate 95 along the Eastern Seaboard.

McGlamery said seven tractor-trailers were involved in the pileup, including an empty fuel tanker. Fumes inside the tanker exploded and caught fire, though the driver of the rig survived.

Joseph White, a soldier in the Army National Guard, told the The Courier Herald of Dublin he was heading to work when he drove into heavy traffic clouded by black smoke. He was rear-ended before he saw a fuel tanker hit an 18-wheeler.

``I'm looking back and the tanker exploded,'' said White, who ran from the scene after his car came to a halt. ``Pieces of the tanker flew toward me on the freeway, barely missing me. A piece of the tanker landed like 10 feet behind me as I was running. It almost fell on my head.''

Martha Strickland, who passed through the smoky scene shortly after the crashes, said she could see the tanker burning but not engulfed in flames.

``We had to creep by because, you know, it was just so much smoke and to keep us from getting in a wreck, and we were on eastbound and that was in westbound,'' Strickland said.

Laurens County EMS director Terry Cobb, who was among the first emergency officials at the scene, said at least six vehicles were still on fire when crews arrived. Emergency officials encountered fog on the way to the crash site, though it seemed to lift one they arrived, Cobb said.

Authorities said nine people injured in the crash were taken to Fairview Park Hospital in nearby Dublin. Jeff Bruton, a hospital administrator, said all were treated and released except for one patient who was transferred to a hospital in Macon.

The dead were identified as: Michael Jarome Smith of Covington; Jeff Moore of Effingham County; and Clayton and Josephine Warnock of Dublin.

The area was under a dense fog advisory at the time of the pileup, said Laura Belanger, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. In some areas, visibility was only a quarter-mile or less, Belanger said.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Alabama to join 'SEC primary' in 2016 presidential race
Alabama lawmakers have voted to join the ``SEC primary'' as southern states band together to try to get more attention from 2016 presidential hopefuls.
8:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
Boy Scouts' leader says ban on gay adults not sustainable
NEW YORK (AP) — The president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, said Thursday that the organization's longstanding ban on participation by openly gay adults is no longer sustainable and call...
11:23PM ( 9 hours ago )
Former Hall employee arrested on meth-related charges
Hall County authorities have arrested a now former Hall County Parks Maintenance Supervisor on drug charges.
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:46PM ( 12 hours ago )
VIDEO: Law enforcement gears up for holiday weekend, boating season
Rangers from a host of law enforcement agencies are gearing up for the busy Memorial Day weekend out on the various waterways in Georgia; the holiday marks the unofficial beginning to the summer boating season.
6:01PM ( 15 hours ago )
Two Jefferson homes destroyed by fires
Two house fires, among other things, kept Jackson County Fire crews busy Thursday.
5:17PM ( 15 hours ago )