Multi-vehicle crash blocks northbound lanes of I-77 for hours

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Emergency crews had to close the northbound lanes of Interstate 77 just north of Interstate 85 near Sunset Road Wednesday morning after a serious multi-vehicle crash.

[PHOTOS: Multi-vehicle crash shuts down I-77 northbound]

The crash, which involved a tractor-trailer and two pickup trucks, happened just before 7 a.m. in the northbound lanes, near the Cindy Lane bridge in a construction zone.

Troopers said a red truck swerved across several lanes causing the driver to crash into a pick-up truck.

The driver of the red truck has been charged with careless and reckless driving, as well as other violations.

The heavy traffic, coupled with the jersey barriers along the interstate, made it very difficult for emergency crews to get to the scene.

Paramedics transported three people to the hospital, one with serious injuries.

Traffic was backed up for miles, and transportation officials estimated that the interstate would not be completely reopened until 2 p.m.

Reporter Gina Esposito said people began to get out of their cars on the stand-still interstate.

Esposito said she saw two people playing Frisbee, and a man started passing out books about religion.

Channel 9 Skyzoom flew over the interstate around 9:20 a.m. and saw that troopers were able to open all but one lane.

Channel 9 watched as many people stuck in the traffic mess got out of their vehicles and walked around, some with small children.

“You don’t know when you are going to move,” said stranded motorist Rob Brooks. “You can’t sleep, you really can’t do anything, just have to sit there and wait and yeah, it’s pretty frustrating.”

Construction zone hampers emergency crews' access

Highway Patrol reached an accident scene fairly quickly on Wednesday, Channel 9 captured video of fire trucks struggling to get through traffic in a construction zone.

The emergency lanes along that stretch of highway are separated by construction barriers. There are also limited emergency lane access points and those are constantly changing as construction progresses.

Channel 9 learned that four fire stations were dispatched to this morning’s crash from different directions. However, the construction barriers clearly impacted the ability of some fire trucks to respond.

"There's a lack of communication between the boots on the ground and construction management,” an emergency responder who did not want to be identified, said. “We're told there's an emergency access point and then show up and it's not there."

Investigative reporter Paul Boyd took that concern to Louis Mitchell, a division engineer with North Carolina's Department of Transportation.

“That feedback has not been received by us,” Mitchell said. “And we're always willing to sit down with the first responders and ensure we have the best access possible. We're constantly communicating with first responders.

Charlotte's fire department would only officially say it was "reviewing" what happened on Wednesday morning, and NCDOT ultimately denied there was any access issues or communication problem.

Sugar Creek Construction is the lead contractor on the I-77 project. An official told Channel 9 Wednesday that safety is its first priority and that it meets with emergency response officials every month to communicate plans.

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