I-77 reopens following pileup at Va-NC line
GALAX, Va. (AP) -- Interstate 77 near the Virginia-North Carolina
reopened early Monday following a series of chain-reaction wrecks
involving nearly 100 vehicles along a mountainous, foggy stretch of the
highway, killing three people and injured 25 others.
Virginia State Police determined 95 vehicles wrecked in 17 separate crashes within a mile span near the base of Fancy Gap Mountain, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The crashes began around 1:15 p.m. Sunday when there was heavy fog in the area.
"This mountain is notorious for fog banks. They have advance signs
warning people. But the problem is, people are seeing well and suddenly
they're in a fog bank," said Glen Sage of the American Red Cross office
in the town of Galax.
Since 1997, there have been at least six such pileups on the mountain
but Sunday's crash was the most deadly, according to The Roanoke Times.
Two people died in crashes involving dozens of vehicles in both 2000
State police said traffic along
the interstate in southwest Virginia backed up for about 8 miles in the
southbound lanes after the accidents. Authorities closed the northbound
lanes so that fire trucks, ambulances and police could get to the wrecked vehicles.
Overhead message boards warned drivers since about 6 a.m. Sunday to
slow down because of the severe fog, Geller said. The crashes were
mostly caused by drivers going too fast for conditions.
At the "epicenter" was a wreck involving up to eight vehicles, some
of which caught fire, Geller said. Photos from the accident scene showed
a burned out tractor-trailer and several crumpled vehicles badly
charred. Those taken to hospitals had injuries ranging from serious to
School buses took stranded people to shelters and hotels.
Nina Rose, 20, and her mother, were driving home to Rochester, N.Y., when they encountered the pileup.
"With so much fog we didn't see much around it," Rose told the
Roanoke newspaper. "As we got further up we just saw a bunch of people
standing on the median, just with their kids and families all together.
There were cars smashed into other cars, and cars just underneath other
Authorities reopened the northbound lanes Sunday night and the southbound lanes around 12 a.m. Monday.
Police did not immediately release the names of those killed.