LUMBERTON, N.C. - A family of four died when they were hit by a tractor-trailer in a fiery crash that also killed the truck driver and closed a major North Carolina interstate for hours, authorities said Wednesday.
Trooper William Henning confirmed Tuesday that three adults and two children were killed in the crash.
The fiery crash involving several vehicles shut down both directions of I-95 for almost 12 hours near Exit 10 in Robeson County, just north of the South Carolina border.
Video from Channel 9's sister station, WTVD, showed two of the tractor-trailers with mangled cabs at the scene southwest of Lumberton, along with what appeared to be a charred SUV. Other footage captured by drivers showed fires blazing and thick black smoke wafting into the air.
A North Carolina Highway Patrol news release said the six-vehicle wreck happened Tuesday afternoon when the Volvo tanker truck was heading south toward a work zone where crews were painting Interstate 95 near the South Carolina state line. Authorities say the tanker failed to reduce speed, colliding with a pickup truck. The pickup truck was pushed forward, causing a chain-reaction crash with two more SUVs.
The Volvo tanker then struck another tractor-trailer, which was pushed into a third commercial truck. Gasoline in the tanker ignited, and the Volvo careened onto the shoulder and caught fire.
(Cole and Elise Spennati -- Source: WCIV)
The Highway Patrol on Wednesday identified the family killed in the pickup as a mother, father and two daughters from Goose Creek, South Carolina. Their names were: 32-year-old Elise Ann Spennati, 24-year-old Cole Allen Spennati, 1-year-old Sianna Spennati and 4-year-old Aila Spennati.
The tractor-trailer driver was identified as 68-year-old Michael Elliott Bricker of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Cole's mother spoke with Channel 9’s sister station, WCIV, and said the family had visited for Mother's Day weekend in Pennsylvania and was returning home.
She said that Cole was in the Navy Munition Command at the Naval Weapons Station. He was a mineman who dealt with underwater mines and just received orders to be stationed in San Diego.
Witnesses said it appeared the flames and fuel ignited the other vehicles. The flames spread across the grass of the median and shoulders and then into nearby wooded areas.
Three people in a Ford Explorer and the driver of a Ford Escape were flown to hospitals with serious injuries, but were reported in stable condition Wednesday.
The drivers of two of the other tractor-trailers were treated and released at the scene.
Authorities said the fire was extinguished quickly, but crews had to survey the road to make sure it was safe to reopen.
The crash closed the highway between exits 2 and 10, forcing traffic in both directions to be detoured off the interstate.
The NC DOT said northbound lanes of I-95 were reopened just before midnight and the southbound lanes reopened about an hour later.
(WTVD ABC11 and WCIV ABC 4 contributed to this story)
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