Traffic

8 Injured in I-85 Accident, Highway Re-Opened

Posted June 16, 2007 2:36 p.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2007 10:24 a.m. EDT

— Eight people were injured, one critically, in a three-vehicle accident on Interstate 85 North near the U.S. 70 split Saturday afternoon, according to Durham police.

The accident shut down the entrance to U.S. 70 from I-85 North for several hours.

The accident happened at 12:51 p.m. when a northbound Ford Explorer, driven by Jonathan Smith of Fayetteville, attempted to merge left from one of the lanes going to U.S. 70 to the adjoining lane of I-85.

The right front quarter of the Explorer struck the left front quarter of a minivan in the middle lane, causing both vehicles to go out of control, police said. The minivan then struck a right tire on a tractor-trailer, which was in the northbound lane to the left of the minivan.

The Explorer bounced off the minivan and struck a guardrail on the right side of the highway. The Explorer then spun clockwise and ended up facing south next to the guardrail. Two children in the cargo area of the Explorer were ejected through the back window.

The minivan also ran off the right side of the road and ended up in the breakdown lane in front of the Explorer.

The tractor-trailer, which was driven by James Watson Jr. of Douglas, Ga., went out of control and the weight of the paper products in the trailer shifted, causing the vehicle to flip on its left side and slide across the highway to the right.

Watson was driving for Roehl Transportation, according to police.

He was taken to Duke University Hospital, where he was in critical condition Sunday. His 10-year-old daughter was treated at Duke and released.

Smith was not injured, but six people in his vehicle - two adults, two teens and two children - were taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries that do not appear to be life-threatening. Three of the six have been released from the hospital at this time, police said.

No one in the minivan was injured. The name of the minivan’s driver is not available.

All three vehicles were total losses. No charges have been filed at this time, but the accident remains under investigation.

The highway re-opened around 7 p.m. Saturday, police said.