LUMBERTON — A fiery accident on Interstate 95 on Saturday night left its mark on the major highway.
Traffic was detoured in both directions for at least four hours after the produce truck struck a disabled car, littering the road between exits 17 and 19 with debris and diesel fuel and snarling a metal guardrail.
While the Lumberton and Raft Swamp fire departments fought the blaze, cars were diverted down Carthage Road and West Fifth Street. The fire reignited several times, according to Capt. Jerome Morton, of the Lumberton Police Department’s Patrol Division.
”They were directing traffic up the exit ramp backwards to detour on [West Fifth Street], there was tons of smoke!” Amanda Colletti wrote on The Robesonian’s Facebook.
Diesel fuel spilled from the 18-wheeler’s tank, rolling down the incline as it burned, according to Lumberton Fire Chief Paul Ivey.
”It was chaotic. We were about 70 yards from it. Flames stretched at least 60 yards,” Elias Salazar said on Facebook.
According to an accident report, the driver, William Edward Blessing, was traveling south when he tried to move his 18-wheeler into the right-hand lane and it struck a Pontiac that was on the highway.
The tractor-trailer struck a guardrail and then hit the concrete barrier between the northbound and southbound lanes and caught fire, according to an accident report. The accident left a black mark on the concrete barrier that stretches for about 100 yards.
“We were there about 10 minutes and cars started turning around or backing up to the ramp at Exit 19 … All we could see from West 5th street exit was smoke,” Sylvia Harrelson Pate wrote on The Robesonian’s Facebook.
According to the report, the Pontiac, which belongs to Felicia McNeil of Rowland, did not have any lights and was being pushed by a passenger, Atlas Smith. The accident report listed no injuries for McNeil or Smith, but a spokesperson said Smith was treated at Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
The accident report didn’t list any injuries for Blessing, but Morton said he suffered a scratch.
About $30,000 in damage was done to the truck and $4,000 in damage was done to McNeil’s car. About $1,200 in damage was done to a Hyundai that struck debris. Damage to the guardrail was estimated at $2,000.
Ivey said two Lumberton firetrucks fought the blaze with backup from Raft Swamp. One truck doused the 18-wheeler while the other put out the flaming trail of gasoline. Ivey said he was not sure how long it took to control the fire, but that firefighters were on the scene from 9:44 p.m. Saturday until about 4:30 a.m. Sunday.
Brian Lupo, a Lumberton firefighter, was taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center and treated for smoke inhalation and quickly released, according to Ivey.