Dunn, N.C. — A couple from New Jersey died Tuesday morning after the man apparently fell asleep at the wheel, crashed and was hit by an 18-wheeler on Interstate 95 north near Dunn, according to troopers.
The crash initially shut down I-95 in both directions from Exit 71, Long Branch Road, to Exit 72, Springbranch/Joe Pope Road. All lanes reopened by 8:45 a.m.
Bert William Baytops, 55, was headed to New Jersey with his girlfriend, Tralina Covington, 38, after picking up a car in Georgia, according to authorities.
Troopers said they believe he fell asleep, ran off the right shoulder, over-corrected, hit a guardrail in the median and flipped the car.
The car came to a stop, upright, in the middle of the northbound lanes and an 18-wheeler crashed into the back of the car, which burst into flames, authorities said.
Baytops died in the fire, authorities said. Covington was ejected from the car and died from her injuries.
The tractor-trailer driver, Jeffrey Drumm, of Thomaston, Conn., survived the crash, troopers said. He was driving a load of cars to East Coast Auto Movers in Rockland, Mass.
Crews spent several hours removing the 18-wheeler, which jackknifed and came to rest on a guard rail.