Driver May Have Fallen Asleep at Wheel, Crashes Into Tractor-Trailer

Posted June 8, 2007 4:34 a.m. EDT
Updated June 8, 2007 11:57 a.m. EDT

— All lanes of eastbound Interstate 540 are open to traffic following an accident involving a car and tractor-trailer.

A Toyota Corolla and a tractor-trailer registered to Fleet Master Express in Roanoke, Va., sideswiped each other shortly after 1:30 a.m. Friday on the eastbound Interstate 540 exit ramp to westbound U.S. Highway 64 Business near Knightdale, authorities said.

Investigators said Roberto Lopez Garcia, 32, of Knightdale, may have fallen asleep and his car veered into the tractor-trailer.

The car was still in the roadway when first responders arrived at the scene, authorities said. Investigators said Garcia was wearing his seatbelt, but the impact from the accident threw him nearly 100 feet.

The tractor-trailer, which was carrying beer from Miller Brewing out of Eden, was left hanging on the highway guardrail, and its cab was engulfed in flames, authorities said. The truck driver, Buford Scott, 63, of Ruffin, was able to get out of the cab before it caught fire, authorities said.

Fire officials said it took them 15 minutes to extinguish the flames coming out of the tractor-trailer.

Crews were able to remove the tractor-trailer from the roadway at around 8:30 a.m. They spent most of the morning cleaning up broken bottles in the roadway and 75 gallons of diesel fuel that leaked from the tractor-trailer.

The ramp from I-540 to westbound U.S. 64 Business reopened shortly before noon.

According to authorities, Scott has a broken arm, and Garcia has serious injuries. Both drivers were taken to WakeMed.

Authorities said alcohol was not a factor in the accident.