I-40 reopened after fiery, five-vehicle wreck

Posted January 26, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Interstate 40 near Wade Avenue in western Raleigh has reopened after a fiery, five-vehicle wreck Monday evening.

For several hours, both sides of the interstate were closed from the Wade Avenue exit in Raleigh to Harrison Avenue in Cary. Access from Wade Avenue to I-40 westbound remained closed until early Tuesday.

Shortly before 7 p.m., witnesses said, the driver of an Isuzu missed the exit onto Wade Avenue from eastbound I-40, so he cut across multiple lanes to try to get to the exit.

The Isuzu hit a tractor-trailer and then went off the road into the treeline, the state Highway Patrol said.

"It clipped the front end of a tractor-trailer and lost control,” Trooper Beckley Vaughan said.

Five-vehicle crash in Raleigh snarls traffic Five-vehicle crash in Raleigh snarls traffic

The Isuzu then came back into eastbound lanes and hit a minivan, tossing it into a garbage truck.

The driver of the garbage truck lost control of his vehicle, which crossed the center median and hit a Dodge Charger in the westbound lanes, troopers said. The garbage truck ran off the road and overturned, spilling refuse along the shoulder.

The truck caught fire and set the driver's clothes ablaze, and it flames spread to the debris on the highway and into the adjoining woods.

"It was unreal. I have never seen anyone on fire,” witness Clay Roberson said. "It was just like a movie."

Roberson was among the first witnesses to stop. He said he was surprised to see any signs of life in the burning truck.

"The door swung open, and it was fire coming up,” Roberson said.

Roberson said he helped pull the driver out of the burning truck.

"I can't believe everybody is alive,” he said.

The driver of the garbage truck, Robert Jay Leffer, 48, from Sanford, was taken to the Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He was listed in critical condition Tuesday afternoon with extensive burns.

The driver of the Isuzu, Osmar Guillermo Perez Vicente, 28, was taken to WakeMed. He was listed in good condition Tuesday afternoon.

His male passenger was transported to Duke University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police withheld his name.

The other people involved in the wreck had minor injures and were not hospitalized.

The wreck remained under investigation early Tuesday, but  troopers said charges appeared to be pending.

The garbage truck was still smoldering three hours after the wreck.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • raleighmom08 Jan 27, 2009

    Everyone I'm sure also knows that this guy's hospital bills will be picked up by the taxpayers because he doesn't have insurance and the hospital will have to "write off" the bill. Then he will either be deported - in which case he won't serve any time for his crime, or he will be put into our jail system and again the good taxpaying citizens will get to pay for 3 meals and a bed. I bet a lot of our homeless folks would appreciate 3 meals and a bed most nights. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • suzywoolf Jan 27, 2009

    "tickets for wreckless driving"

    I have driven wreckless every day that I have had my license (19 years) except for once, when I was the hit end of a hit-and-run. That day was not wreckless.

    I wish more people were wreckless.

  • zoiec Jan 27, 2009

    That's what that mess was??!! I cannot understand why it is so difficult to just go one exit up and start over rather than putting your life and so many others at risk. My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved and many thanks for those who stopped to help.

  • Crocus Jan 27, 2009

    I hope that the driver that caused this is forced to face charges for his behavior. Due to his inability to follow road signs and his unwillingness to go up an exit and come back when he found himself in the wrong spot, someone else (who was following traffic rules) is in the hospital dealing with serious burns.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Jan 27, 2009

    I'm the only good driver in NC. Everybody else is crazy.

  • Shadow213 Jan 27, 2009

    figured something went awry when on my way to work this morning there were skid marks and a giant chunk of charred forest...

    as for my two cents on 'bad' drivers-- i have lots of pet peeves--ranging from dumb drivers oblivious to everyone else to drivers who seem to think they're the most important. basically-- it can be summed up into 'those drivers that seem to think they're the only person on the road.'

  • HappyGirl08 Jan 27, 2009

    Well, I hope all the injured are well soon and that idiot izuzu driver gets put under the jail! People! If you miss your exit, ride along and another one will come up shortly. Take it, turn around and go back! Its not that hard.

  • Supie Jan 27, 2009

    I drive this stretch often during rush hour. When your eyes are tracking the crazy, lane changing drivers, its sometimes human to not watch the signs. Its bad driving to change multiple lanes at the last minute of course. But I agree I don't know how the design could be better.

  • Sumo Vita Jan 27, 2009

    Just a few minutes ago, some cretin decided to pull into the fast lane in front of me going about 20 below the speed limit, then slams on his brakes so he can rubberneck at the news crew televising from the side of the road. It was all I could do from rear-ending him. I passed him, and noticed both him and his passenger gaping with their mouths open at the side of the road instead of looking at the traffic in front of and behind him! That's all we need, another wreck at the same spot caused by clueless rubber-neckers.

  • chance Jan 27, 2009

    Prayers are with the truck driver, his family and those who helped get him out of that firey mess.