Local News

Tractor-trailer catches fire on I-40 in Alamance

Posted April 2, 2011 9:22 a.m. EDT
Updated April 3, 2011 7:16 p.m. EDT

— A tractor-trailer hauling furniture ran into a guardrail, caught fire and exploded along Interstate 40 in Alamance County Saturday morning, state troopers said.

The tractor-trailer ran off the right side of I-40 West in Graham around 6:20 a.m., troopers said. The truck struck the guard rail, hard enough that a piece of the vehicle embedded in the concrete barrier.

The truck ran along the guard rail for 263 feet, causing a gas tank to catch fire and explode.

"There was some diesel that actually shot straight up in the air, and you could see kind of like a fireball," Trooper Mike Dawkins said.

A passerby helped the driver, George Arthur Hoyle Jr., get out of the truck. He suffered only minor scratches.

"I'm thinking he's a very lucky man," Dawkins said.

The fire burned through the load of furniture, making it a total loss. Crews took debris from the truck, which had to be towed, and tossed it in a dump truck.

Hoyle was driving the truck for Illinois-based Super Service LLC from New Jersey to Florida.

Troopers said Hoyle lost control of the vehicle. He was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving.

"I do believe he possibly fell asleep at the wheel," Dawkins said. "He believe he was doing something with the GPS device, and he looked down for a second."

Three of five lanes of I-40 West, near Exit 148 to N.C. Highway 54, were closed for about eight hours after the wreck. Sensors showed that traffic backed up for about five miles.

That stretch of highway carries an average of more than 90,000 vehicles a day.