ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — The driver of a big rig was seriously hurt in a Tuesday morning crash involving three fire trucks that shut down a portion of Interstate 85 in Rowan County for hours.
The crash happened shortly before 5 a.m. in the southbound lanes near mile marker 82, north of Long Ferry Road and near the Yadkin River.
Officials said three stationary fire engines from the Millers Ferry Fire Department were in the process of putting out a separate fire on the side of the interstate when the tractor-trailer crashed into them. Officials said the 18-wheeler collided with one fire truck and sent it careening into the other two.
No firefighters were hurt in the crash.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, identified as 50-year-old Nelido Ortiz, was taken to the hospital and was listed in serious condition, authorities told Channel 9. Troopers said he suffered second- and third-degree burns.
Witnesses said the tractor-trailer immediately caught fire after the impact, as did one of the fire trucks. The firefighters on the scene were able to quickly pull Ortiz from the cab of the big rig before it went up in flames.
“I’m extremely proud,” said Millers Ferry Fire Department Chief Josh Fox. “Again, it’s second instinct -- the guys made sure everyone was accounted for, and they stepped right in, never second-guessed to go ahead and take care of the patient. We’re praying for the family of the truck driver.”
A passing driver recorded video of the fiery scene. In the footage, several different fires can be seen burning, and debris is scattered across the road.
The video appeared to show that one fire was near the damaged fire engines and the second was coming from the cab of the tractor-trailer.
No firefighters were injured in the chaos, but the crash certainly has hurt the Millers Ferry Fire Department.
“It’s a catastrophic event for us,” Fox told Channel 9. “We’ve lost three trucks.”
Each truck that was damaged costs more than $500,000. Now, other fire departments will have to step in and help fill the void.
“Your services will not be compromised, we’re still here,” the chief said. “You will see a different truck but will get that same quality of service.”
Authorities have not said what may have led to the collision. Troopers told Channel 9 that charges are pending against Ortiz.
The southbound lanes of I-85 were blocked at Exit 84 but reopened later Tuesday afternoon.
This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information.
© 2020 Cox Media Group