State News

Stretch of I-40 Damaged in Fiery Wreck Reopens

Posted July 29, 2007
Updated July 31, 2007

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— After working through the weekend to repair two lanes of eastbound Interstate 40 that were damaged in a fiery wreck Friday, crews reopened the lanes early Monday in time for the morning commute.

About 100 feet of asphalt of I-40 near the AIrport Boulevard interchange was melted by burning diesel fuel in Friday's multi-vehicle crash, which left one man dead and several people injured.

Workers also had to repair a broken guardrail.

Eight vehicles were involved in the wreck, including a westbound tractor-trailer that was hit by a pickup truck and went through a guardrail, across the median, and into eastbound traffic before catching fire and exploding.

Nemeth F. Sanders, 43, of Bailey, the driver of one of three pickup trucks involved, was killed, authorities said.

On Sunday, James Hastings Jr., 53, of Mebane, driver of the tractor-trailer, was in the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill with second- and third-degree burns to 50 to 60 percent of his body, authorities said.

Luke Harris, 8, of Statesville, who was in a Dodge Neon, was at Duke University Hospital in a medically induced coma, said state Trooper John Collins. Both Harris and Hastings were making progress, Collins said.

The other people injured in the wreck have all been released from area hospitals.

The driver of the westbound pickup truck that triggered the accident, Robert Klimczak, 22, of Fuquay-Varina, was driving on a suspended license, troopers said.

No charges have been filed at this time, but state Highway Patrol officials said that Klimczak could face charges of driving with a suspended license.

He might face additional charges, but the investigation into the accident continues, Collins said.

Klimczak’s family members said he was unaware his license had been suspended and would check with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The license suspension was probably a clerical error stemming from a May 13, 2006, accident on Interstate 440 near Western Boulevard, said Chester Klimczak, Robert Klimczak's father. The other driver in that accident was driving without license, Chester Klimczak said.

Robert Klimczak is a senior at North Carolina State University and was driving his father's truck to work at the Research Triangle Park at the time of the accident, Chester Klimczak said.

Della Sanders, Nemeth Sanders' mother, said the family would welcome any supporters at her son's burial. The burial is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Sanders’ Family Cemetery, 9684 Pace Road, on the family's farm in Bailey.

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  • Brick Tamland Jul 30, 2007

    I have a guardrail design that will last all century long! Whoooo!

  • bkstate Jul 30, 2007

    "Think_people"... sounds like a guy that has no idea what he's talking about. jk. He's right on and the sad thing is that there will be ppl that will respond and will have no clue what it takes to plan/construct/maintain these roads but will swear up and down that just cuz they cruise along between the painted lines on the asphalt everyday that they are experts.

    There are degrees, certifications, boards, and inspection processes for a reason. Everyday these ppl take into account the risks and lives of those that will ride these roads. But they hardest part of their jobs is to anticipate the stupidity of those who use the roadways.

    I pray for those involved in this terrible event and I pray for all of us to be more patient and careful while we are out there riding the roads next to one another. peace.

  • frontlinenews Jul 30, 2007

    What difference does that make, license suspended or not - obviously this person trigger the whole accident to happen - how can this person live with himself - know one died, one is in a coma and one is in a burn unit

  • Think_people Jul 30, 2007

    To all of the experts "after the fact". I think you should put together a transportation plan, budget and of course get everyone what they want. Because you have the answers. Why I bet you have a guardrail design on your computer at home and of course a prepared budget to do everything. The accident was horrible. It is sad, and my heart gos out to the familys who are involved. But I am sooo tired of people who have opinions who most likely have no basic understanding of road and safety design. And instantly the DOT is cheap and terrible. Do you know what a budget is. And of course all the demands people want for themselves involving the roads. Not one person commented about how as soon as the accident happened the DOT responded as best they could. Doing traffic control and getting the guardrail up and the road repaired by the end of the weekend. Last the system is not perfect but considering everything it is not bad.

  • WRALSUCKS Jul 30, 2007

    "How can you be unaware of having your license suspended."

    Because the license division screwed up!

  • Bud Light Jul 30, 2007

    "How can you be unaware of having your license suspended?"

    Ask Paris Hilton.

    Whatever the case is, I feel for the guy. Survivor's guilt is a tough thing to live with.

  • Brick Tamland Jul 30, 2007

    I also wondered why there was only a metal guardrail that separated eight lanes of traffic that were within 10 yards of each other. And it seems typical that the one who may have caused the accident didn't even get a scratch. It's getting so I don't want to even drive anymore. People don't think about that there are others on the road, and their actions can cause a lot of harm.

  • snizzake Jul 30, 2007

    i agree that a more substantial guardrail would probably have saved a life in this case. for those wondering how the state would pay for better guardrails.... ask our wonderful governor Mike Easley! He is the reason we don't have enough money left in the highway trust fund to use for projects like this, because he has used it as his pet-project SLUSH fund for years! even though it is in our state constitution that monies in specific state funds can only be used for those specific purposes, Mike Easley had some kind of legislation passed that allowed him to take money from our highway construction trust fund to use for whatever he saw fit... entitlements for special interest groups galore... That's the Democratic way!! We need to get him out of office ASAP!!!!

  • Trixie Jul 30, 2007

    I just saw the video of Sanders mom talking about her son. He had called her before the accident to say he aced is forestry exam. It really makes you think how quickly it can all end. I tell my family I love them after every conservation. You just never know.

  • atozca Jul 30, 2007

    My prayers to all those involved. Especially to the young man with the supposed suspended DL. Why hasn't a reporter checked the public records to see why & when his DL was suspended? It is my understanding that he had a tire blow out and that caused the chain reaction.... there but by the grace of God go I!

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