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Drivers stop to help put out vehicle fires after I-40 crash

Posted October 1, 2012

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— A chain-reaction crash that injured several people and led to two vehicles erupting in flames closed eastbound Interstate 40 in Durham for almost two hours Monday, authorities said.

Five vehicles were involved in the wreck, which occurred shortly after 11:30 a.m. near where I-40 crosses over Barbee Road, police said.

The crash prompted the North Carolina State Highway Patrol to close eastbound I-40 at Fayetteville Road.

Two of the five vehicles involved caught fire, and police said other drivers stopped to help put out the flames.

Mike Stewart, who services fire extinguishers, was driving on I-40 when the crash occurred and decided to put the payload in his van to good use.

"I jumped out, got to the back of my van, grabbed a couple of fire extinguishers, ran up and just started trying to put out the fires," Stewart said.

He then started handing out extinguishers to anyone willing to help put out the flames.

"There was so much smoke, you couldn't even see the vehicles up front," he said.

All occupants of the five vehicles in the wreck had already escaped by the time he arrived, but he and other drivers battled the flames until the fire department arrived.

Fire extinguisher Right person in right place at right time in fiery I-40 wreck

"As we were doing that, the police came. I gave a couple of officers extinguishers so they could help," he said.

Several people were taken to Duke University Hospital for treatment, but none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening, police said.

Stewart said he was grateful that he could help.

"The officer said, 'You can never find a fire extinguisher when you need one, but you certainly found enough today,'" he said.

All lanes of eastbound I-40 were reopened by 1:30 p.m.

Police said a report of a second crash on westbound I-40 at the Durham Freeway interchange involving a tractor-trailer was inaccurate.

37 Comments

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  • Itdoesnotmatter Oct 2, 2012

    I agree. Who cares about the horrible drivers. Much thanks to this hero that had the heart and supplies to help. Kudos to him!

  • Rebelyell55 Oct 2, 2012

    A very good job by Mike and his willingness to help and those who helped him.

  • kwenzel Oct 2, 2012

    I think the point of the story is not about speed,it's about the miracle of this guy with tons of fire extinguishers showing up at the right place at the right time. What a God send!!!! That could have been so much worse!!!

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Oct 2, 2012

    The logic of only passing in the left lane kind of goes out the window in heavy traffic on multilane roads. On the south side of the belt line we can do so much good for the people getting on and dealing with the school buses if we would just move left allowing the other lanes to move left. Just try to be predictable and polite.

  • Vietnam Vet Oct 1, 2012

    What a great story!!!!!

  • kcfoxie Oct 1, 2012

    If people maintained their cars, knew how to drive (reads: no more automatics) and bothered to think about the time it takes to travel a certain distance between the city you live in and the one you work in, things like this would never happen. I bet the tires on the vehicle at fault were bald, the brakes about shot, and the transmission a PRND and not a 1-2-3-4-5-R type.

  • ginlee00 Oct 1, 2012

    Most people think the speed limit signs are a "suggestion" not the LAW. The "Y" generation's philosophy of ME,ME,ME can often make these individuals think that the law is for everyone EXCEPT them.

  • ICTrue Oct 1, 2012

    " I do NOT consider a car going 70 in a 65 a 'slower' car! No way, no day." Scubagirl

    If you're not passing and you are in the left lane then you are the problem...don't really care how fast your going, you're eventually going to get someone killed.

  • miseem Oct 1, 2012

    WRONG! Speed is of no matter in lane hierarchy. If you are not passing a car you should be in the right lane. Period. If you are doing 85 in the left lane and a car comes up behind you doing 90, GET OVER!!!
    I'd pull over, mainly to get the drivers license # to call the police. There are other reasons to be in the left lane. Allowing traffic coming off an entrance ramp to merge or law enforcement/constuction workers, even a disabled car on the right shoulder. Besides, if you are doing 90 in a 70 zone, I may pull over just to get you to slow down and to aggravate you. Of course, I'd be passing another car, just veeery slowly. Otherwise, you'd just pass me in the right lane (another no no). Does your law mention anything about how quickly you have to pass another car?

  • independent_thinker Oct 1, 2012

    Why is there a de-facto right to be able to drive above the speed limit?

    Given that 40,000 people a year lose their life on the road, all speed infractions should be a felony.

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