Local News

18 Hours Later, Southbound I-85 Reopens in Durham

Posted June 6, 2007
Updated June 7, 2007

— Two lanes of southbound Interstate 85 in Durham reopened Thursday afternoon after being closed for nearly 18 hours because a truck carrying about three dozen barrels of a toxic chemical overturned.

The accident happened near the Hillandale Road exit just before 9 p.m. Wednesday.

One of the barrels of benzyl chloride leaked inside the overturned trailer, slowing plans to right and remove the rig.

City police said that what they called a "freak accident" began when a set of tires came off one axle of a northbound roll-off tow truck owned by Lethal Wrecker Service of Charlottesville, Va. The tires went across the median and hit the side of the southbound tractor-trailer, and it crashed onto its right side on the shoulder of the road.

Police said the driver, Brian Thomas, was listed in critical condition at Duke University Hospital.

Benzyl chloride is a colorless liquid with a pungent odor and is an irritant if the vapor is inhaled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and chemical-industry data sheets. It also reacts if it is exposed to water, they said.

The chemical is used in making dyes and pharmaceutical products and as a photographic developer, the EPA said.


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  • mike honcho Jun 7, 2007

    hp227, you are correct sir, it was not the roll back wrecker that crossed the median, it was the right side dual wheels,tires and brake caliper that went air born and struck the drivers door of the southbound 18 wheeler knocking the driver unconious the rig then sideswiped the right side jersey wall, when it came to the end of the jersey wall all right side tires on the rig were down and it rolled onto its right side. the driver suffered a severe injury to his left arm and is still in critical condition.

  • hp277 Jun 7, 2007

    This part of the story has to be wrong:

    That truck went across the median and hit the side of the southbound tractor-trailer, and it crashed onto its right side on the shoulder of the road.

    There is no way a tow truck jumped the jersey barrier there. The median barrier was completely undamaged today.

  • shine Jun 7, 2007

    I have to get on that road often and I spend more defensive driving time form 70 out of Raleigh to exit 171. It is nerve racking - and I stay off of 40 form RDU to Greensboro completly. I run 64 across or mostly take 1 south to Sanford to 321. Not as nerve racking. I hope the driver is going to be okay.

  • WillnDurham Jun 7, 2007

    It does "seem" like there are more accidents on this strech of road then any other in the Triangle. If not more then at least more deadly or harmful. Though I'm not a proponant of adding highway patrol...maybe more "dummy" patrol cars. But I'd prefer to avoid the ones that can actually write me a ticket.

  • Val36 Jun 7, 2007

    I was driving by shortly after it happened. The tires that came off of the northbound truck hit the tractor trailer and caused the accident. The northbound truck ended up lodged against and up onto the median.

  • homeimprovement Jun 7, 2007

    This stretch of I85 has been dangerous. Many times I have needed to merge or let somebody merge when they have had cones basically not allowing a full merge lane.

    This makes the people behind the incoming cars stop when they can't merge. It also doesn't give the incoming vehicle a good visual of oncoming traffic.

    Supposedly they were set there for construction, but normally construction crews are nowhere in the vicinity.

  • blessed07 Jun 7, 2007

    my prayers are with the thomas family. i am a close friend and co-worker of mr.thomas daugther. we here in baltimore are all praying for them while they are there. and know that we are all here for you guys. mr. thomas you will pull through this by the grace of GOD and the prayers of your family and friends, because we all know that the devil is a liar and he will not claim you. you are here for a reason and your not done yet. you are a good man, to the family lets just all keep the faith.

  • pack-man Jun 7, 2007

    this must have been one amazing accident for a tow truck to cross a 4' jersey barrier with planters in the middle and hit a truck going the opposite direction. is this even possible? either WRAL has the story messed up(wouldn't be the first time) or this accident is legendary.

  • Evil People Play the Lottery Jun 7, 2007

    It said in the paper that before police and ems got to the scene .. they already had 2 armed robberies and one person was shot. Typical Durham

  • Bromlette Jun 7, 2007

    The name of the wrecker service - Lethal Wrecker Service - fits them nicely. Or least almost.