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

Posted October 1, 2012 12:20 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2012 6:55 p.m. EDT

— 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.

"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.