Trucker charged in fatal I-95 crash; crews reopen highway

Posted October 20, 2016
Updated October 21, 2016

— The North Carolina Department of Transportation reopened southbound Interstate 95 in Johnston County Thursday evening, more than a day after multiple crashes killed three people.

The State Highway Patrol has charged a Florida trucker in one of the three crashes, and charges are expected against a second trucker.

Northbound I-95 lanes reopened about 5 a.m. Thursday, but crews had to repave a section of the southbound lanes where a fiery crash left a hole in the pavement. A contractor had to mill off the damaged pavement and pour 160 tons of asphalt to rebuild the roadway before the lanes could reopen at about 5:30 p.m.

The mayhem started shortly after noon Wednesday when a southbound tractor trailer veered onto the right shoulder near mile marker 90 and overturned, pinning the driver, Nenad Sekulic, 29, of Tacoma, Wash., inside. Both directions of I-95 were closed so that Sekulic coul be extricated from the truck cab and airlifted to WakeMed in Raleigh.

Sekulic's injuries weren't life-threatening, authorities said. Charges haven't yet been filed against him.

A 2000 Freightliner tractor-trailer sitting in stopped traffic from that crash was rear-ended on southbound I-95 near mile marker 95 by a 35-foot recreational vehicle at about 1:30 p.m. and erupted into a fireball, sending a plume of smoke into the sky.

Officials with EEC Express LLC, of Homestead, Fla., which owned the truck, said chlorine tablets were among the materials in the truck, and authorities said the truck driver, Eiver Espinosa Rodriquez, 23, of Homestead, quickly helped them identify the danger from the burning chlorine.

Johnston County emergency officials evacuated an area up to 5 miles from the crash scene to cope with air quality concerns amid shifting winds, including Johnston Community College, Johnston County Middle College, Johnston County Early College and South Campus Community School. Dozens of people went to shelters, and authorities shut down I-95 to let the chemical fire burn itself out.

Authorities closed the U.S. Highway 70 Business bridge over I-95 on Thursday so it could be decontaminated after being exposed to the hazardous materials.

The driver of the RV, Joseph Anthony George, 68, of Pittsburgh, was killed in the crash, so no charges are expected, authorities said.

Less than an hour later, two tractor-trailers, a small moving truck, a passenger vehicle and another RV were involved in a third crash, this time on northbound I-95 near mile maker 88, authorities said.

A 2010 Kenworth semi, driven by Alex Omar Lopez, 44, of Miami, rear-ended a stopped RV, killing Christopher Michael Porter, 36, of Pell City, Ala., and Mitchell Alan Vandenburg, 30, of Loveland, Colo. A third person in the RV, Adam Charles Nurre, 35, of Austin, Texas, was taken to WakeMed in Raleigh for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The RV then rear-ended the moving truck, which was also hit by the semi. The semi also hit a passenger vehicle, which then rear-ended another tractor trailer, authorities said. No injuries were reported in any of those vehicles.

Lopez has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and was given a $5,000 secured bond.

According to court records, Lopez has only minor traffic violations on his record, the most recent in 2005.


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  • Morris Vobserv Oct 21, 2016
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    Something tells me Lopez isn't showing up for court...

  • Sam Walker Oct 21, 2016
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    " Accidents will always happen."

    Maybe, but most happen because of someone's behavior. They are not random or blameless, especially if you rear end another vehicle. Inattention, unsafe equipment, or recklessness are the fault of the driver.

  • Candace Williams Oct 21, 2016
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    Steve, they were hauling chlorine tablets

  • John Ragan Oct 20, 2016
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    And children the moral to this story....

  • Sam Jaber Oct 20, 2016
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    Trucking company NOT AUTHORIZED to haul chemicals and no charges expected???? Something smells as bad a burning methyl ethyl bad stuff!!!!!

  • Kenneth Jones Oct 20, 2016
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    I wonder how quickly the DOT gets the overhead signs going letting people know to slow down and how far the traffic is backed up? Every time there is a major accident on interstates stopping traffic, there are more accidents happening behind it. Everyone who travels knows how easy it is to get zoned out of what's happening around you. Kinda like watching tv and not being aware of what the person next to you is doing. Accidents will always happen. Nice how WRAL posted a guys pic like he's some kind of criminal now because he had an accident. Judge, jury and executioner. The guy is a professional driver with no violations for 11 years. I imagine the majority of truck drivers don't have that clean of a record. But he's guilty, right?

  • Matt Clinton Oct 20, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    I see who lives rent free in your head.

  • Steve Faulkner Oct 20, 2016
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    I am still wondering what chemical the truck was hauling that seems to be top secret.

  • Crystal Czeck Oct 20, 2016
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    I was wondering when someone would attempt to make this political lol ... so sad.

  • Matt Clinton Oct 20, 2016
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    Because the best reactions are kneejerk reactions, am I right?