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Charges to Be Filed in Fiery Interstate 40 Accident

Posted July 28, 2007
Updated July 29, 2007

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— The driver of a Dodge truck that lost control and started a chain reaction of collisions on that killed one person and injured five others on Friday will face charges, the Highway Patrol said Saturday.

Robert Klimczak, 22, of Fuquay-Varina, will be charged for driving with a suspended license. He may also face additional charges, Trooper John Collins.

Klimczak's license was suspended when he failed to appear in court to face charges in a previous accident, Collins said.

Court records show that Klimczak was charged with reckless driving to endanger on Sept. 2, 2003. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving left of center on March 1, 2004, according to records.

A speeding charge was also filed against Klimczak on Sept. 2, 2003.

Kimczak’s family members said he unaware his license had been suspended.

The eight-vehicle accident shut down both directions of Interstate 40 near Airport Boulevard for nearly five hours Friday. Two eastbound lanes were still closed Saturday afternoon.

According to authorities, Kimczak was traveling westbound on I-40 shortly before 1 p.m. when his black Dodge pickup truck collided with a red Chevrolet pickup, which then sideswiped a tractor-trailer.

The State Highway Patrol could not confirm witness reports that a tire blew out on Klimczak's vehicle. Troopers said those reports were still under investigation.

The tractor-trailer then crossed the median into the eastbound lanes, where a Dodge Neon collided with it, was knocked backward and slammed into the guardrail, the Highway Patrol said.

A green Nissan Altima and a silver Dodge pickup truck also collided with the tractor-trailer and were pinned beneath it.

The silver Dodge pickup truck hit a saddle tank on the side of the truck, which contained several gallons of gasoline. The saddle tank exploded upon impact and started an immediate fire, authorities said.

The driver of the silver Dodge pickup, Nemeth F. Sanders, 43, of Bailey, died at the scene, authorities said.

Stephen Hargrove, 41, of Raleigh, who escaped from the window of his green Nissan when he saw the truck coming toward him, was treated for minor injuries and released from WakeMed, authorities said.

The occupants of the Dodge Neon, Hannah Wyatt, 20, who is pregnant, and her nephew, Luke Harris, 8, both of Statesville, were transported to Duke University Hospital. Both were listed in critical condition Friday, but Highway Patrol said that Wyatt was doing well and her fetus was fine Saturday morning.

Harris underwent surgery for skull fractures and neck injuries Saturday morning, authorities said. He also suffered arm and leg injuries, but family members said they are "optimistic," Collins said.

The tractor-trailer's driver, James Hastings, Jr., 54, of Mebane, was taken to the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He was listed in critical condition and being sedated for pain early Saturday afternoon, hospital officials said.

Michael Lassiter, 57, of Burlington, the driver of the Chevrolet truck, was treated for minor injuries.
Klimczak was treated for minor injuries at WakeMed and was expected to be released Saturday morning, Collins said.

Peter Cieslak, who was driving a dump truck that also brushed the tractor-trailer, was treated and released from WakeMed.