Truck driver killed in fiery a.m. crash

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Part of Interstate 55 north in southern Lincoln County remainedclosed throughout the day Wednesday as cleanup continued followinga fatal early morning crash involving three 18-wheelers, officialssaid.

Authorities are still trying to identify the truck driver whowas killed in the accident.

At 3:17 a.m. Wednesday, a northbound truck carrying a load ofmail sideswiped a log truck that was parked on the side of theinterstate at Exit 30, said Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop MPublic Affairs Officer Sgt. Rusty Boyd.

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A tire came off the mail truck and struck an SUV, which was alsotraveling north on I-55. Boyd said the passenger vehicle swervedinto the median.

Shortly thereafter, a third 18-wheeler, carrying drums of oil,came through the area.

When it tried to avoid debris in the road, it struck the mailtruck, which had pulled over to the side of the road. Both trucksburst into flame, Boyd said.

The driver of the truck carrying the oil drums died in the fire,officials said.

The mail truck driver had gotten out of his vehicle and wasstanding away from it when the collision occurred, officials said.The log truck driver was not on the scene at the time of theaccident.

There were no other injuries, officials said.

Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris said the body of thedeceased truck driver is being sent to the state Crime Lab inJackson to have DNA analysis done.

“I have heard a name, but we don’t have any way of knowing ifthat’s him or not,” McMorris said. “His ID will have to comethrough DNA testing.”

Boyd said the deceased person’s name will not be released untilthe next of kin has been notified. McMorris said it could be daysbefore the DNA tests can confirm anything.

“We have to wait on notification of the company the truckbelonged to, and they will track down the driver of that vehicle,”he said. “Then they will notify the family, then try to do apositive identification through DNA. That could take severaldays.”

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said theaccident resulted in one of the worst vehicle fires he’s ever seenin his years in emergency management. Galey said the vehiclesburned so hot and for so long because the third truck was carryingdrums of oil.

“We had a truck carrying containers of oil in the incident. Thatwas bad enough, but it was worse because there was so much paper inthe mail truck,” Galey said.

Galey said five volunteer fire departments and the BrookhavenFire Department were on the scene using water and foam toextinguish the flames, which reignited several times throughout themorning.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Department ofEnvironmental Quality, the Health Department, and the MississippiDepartment of Transportation were all on the scene as well. Theywill remain on the scene until the cleanup is complete.

United States Environmental Services will remove theenvironmental hazards once the wreckage of the two burned trucks iscleared, Galey said.

Galey said workers on the scene hope to have the interstate openagain some time Wednesday, hopefully by 3 p.m. But, he said,there’s a possibility it could take longer than that to get thedebris and environmental hazards cleared.

Boyd said MHP is rerouting traffic from Exit 24 over to Highway51, where they can travel through Bogue Chitto and get back to I-55at Exit 30.