Local News

Report: Trucker hit stopped cars in fatal I-40 wreck

Posted July 14, 2011
Updated July 15, 2011

Crews on the scene of a wreck on Interstate 40 west at U.S. Highway 15/501 in Durham County on June 30, 2011.

— A fatal pile-up on Interstate 40 near Chapel Hill last month occurred when a truck driver slammed into the back of a line of stopped traffic, according to a Highway Patrol report released Thursday.

Troopers say Ronald Eugene Graybeal was driving west on I-40 near U.S. Highway 15/501 on June 30 when he crashed into four vehicles, killing three of the drivers.

An investigation by the Highway Patrol determined that the four vehicles were stopped in heavy afternoon traffic and had just started to move when Graybeal's tractor-trailer hit them at 65 mph. The chain-reaction wreck that ensued caused one vehicle to burst into flames. Ronald Graybeal, trucker charged in fatal I-40 wreck Trucker hit stopped cars in fatal I-40 wreck, report says

Gary Dwayne Smith, 45, of Burlington, died in the burning vehicle, and John Hall Llanio, 38, of Kannapolis, and Barbara Boda Caldwell, 64, of Mebane, also were killed in the crash.

Troopers have upgraded the charges against Graybeal, 50, of Newport, Tenn. He now faces three charges of felony death by vehicle. He initially was charged with one felony and two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle.

They also have charged him with failure to reduce speed. He already faced charges of driving while impaired and possession of marijuana, methadone and drug paraphernalia.

Investigators said he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the wreck.

He is being held in the Orange County jail under a $600,000 bond.


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  • Kelondris Jul 15, 2011

    I agree he should be put in jail, but I think he will be reliving this the rest of his life. Look at the picture of him, he looks like a haunted man. I could be wrong and this could be the drugs, but either way he is something that will stick with him the rest of his life.

  • wildcat Jul 15, 2011

    Put this man away for life. I sure hope others learn what illegal drugs and drinking alcohol while driving can do. It can impair you and kill many on the highways. If you are going to indulge, stay off the roads and highway. Stay home!!

  • Scare Crow Jul 15, 2011

    Upgrade BAIL

  • Jakethesnake Jul 15, 2011

    I can't beleive anyone would argue against the graph that was released showing what happened. not only did they have a d.o.t camera with the wreck on it but these people have been trained to do this. they also probably had many witnesses that really saw it, unlike the one guy who gave a false eyewitness account. get a life, all you wanna do is argue everything, this is definitely 100% what happened.

  • dsalter Jul 15, 2011

    A lot on here continually nod to the notion that all truckdrivers are drug smoking morans. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any major carrier, carrying interstate cargo and regulated by the D.O.T. is subject to random drug testing and are frequently required to submit their drivers' log books to the D.O.T. for inspection. Independents are checked on roadside checks more than before, and at weigh scales. There are drivers that slip through the cracks. I imagine there's some in your office in that catagory too. If a truck is involved in an accident where over $4,000 in property damage occurs or bodily injury, that driver is required to take a drug test regardless who was at fault. I even went through an inspection at Woodbridge, Virginia once that was conducted by the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles and the F.B.I. But, I'm not making excuses for this driver, he was at fault. It's just that all drivers do not fit this image. Also, to the surprise of many, there are numerous dr

  • NickGerz Jul 15, 2011

    kinda scary to think he was on or had methadone with him. I have chronic pain and the doctor put me on methadone at one point to treat the pain. The medicine made me unbelievably sleepy. I could sleep 12 hours and still be tired as heck after being up a few hours. I would almost start to fall asleep while driving. I had to get off it because of this. It worked quite well for the pain relief, but the sleepy side effect was just too much to handle and really scared me.

    Ive driven many years and I was always real good about staying awake/alert while driving, even during long trips when I was driving the whole time. When I started taking the methadone it made me EXTREMELY tired. I ended up having to stop taking it because how tired it made me. I cant imagine someone behind the wheel of an 18 wheeler on methadone. scary.

  • OGE Jul 15, 2011

    Of course no matter what happened they were going to hang this guy out to dry!

  • Felton23 Jul 15, 2011

    So, it wasn't someone merging, it was this "guy" who failed to stop and slammed into the back of stopped traffic.

  • seankelly15 Jul 15, 2011

    mroch123 - Of course, the HP who were actually at the site, took pictures, measured skid marks, viewed the scene from above, interviewed ALL OF THE WITNESSES (not just the one guy who sought out the news reporters), examined impact data, took a statement from the driver..... they are wrong. You look at a picture or two and you become an expert in accident reconstruction.

  • uncblue Jul 15, 2011

    Inexcusable actions by the truck driver.