State News

Stretch of I-40 Damaged in Fiery Wreck Reopens

Posted July 29, 2007 5:04 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2007 1:01 p.m. EDT

— 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.