Tractor-trailer driver charged after crash shut down I-85 for hours

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Drivers had to avoid Interstate 85 near Interstate 77 in north Charlotte for hours after a crash involving a tractor-trailer blocked the southbound lanes Wednesday morning.

The crash happened just before 5 a.m. on I-85, close to Statesville Avenue.

All southbound lanes were closed at I-77, creating major delays throughout the morning rush hour.

All lanes were still closed before noon as crews worked to remove the tractor-trailer and clean up diesel fuel that spilled from it. The interstate did not reopen until 1 p.m.


LIVE UPDATE: Crews are still trying to remove a tractor trailer after it crashed around 4:30 a.m. All southbound lanes on I-85 are blocked at I-77 in North Charlotte and are not expected to reopen until noon. Gina Esposito is live with the latest --> https://bit.ly/39OjW1e

Posted by WSOC-TV on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Channel 9 crews could see the big rig, which appeared to be hauling large spools, disabled beneath the I-77 bridge with heavy front-end damage. It was also missing some of its rear wheels and there was debris scattered across the interstate.

>> Reporter Gina Esposito and Traffic Team 9′s Mark Taylor brought you LIVE real-time updates all morning on Eyewitness News.

Channel 9 learned at least two other vehicles were damaged in the crash, and that the driver of the tractor-trailer was taken to the hospital. Authorities said he was not wearing a seatbelt and has been charged with reckless driving.

According to troopers, they don’t know what caused him to crash. They said he missed his exit while traveling from Raleigh to Cornelius.

WATCH LIVE: A crash involving a tractor-trailer is causing major traffic issues -- only one lane is open on I-85 southbound under I-77, near Statesville Avenue. Gina Esposito is LIVE from the scene --> https://bit.ly/2V6BCRl

Posted by WSOC-TV on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Drivers trying to get around the traffic headache had to take exit 48 to the inner loop of I-485. From I-485 they then took exit 23 for I-77 southbound and continued on I-77 southbound to exit 13 in order to get back on I-85.

Channel 9 watched as crews were able to load four of the detached wheels onto a flatbed. A temporary axel was being placed on the trailer before attaching new wheels in order to remove the vehicle.

The crash remains under investigation but officials told Channel 9 it appeared that the big rig hit the barrier cushion, swinging the trailer into the wall and causing the axel and wheels to break off.

Troopers said the tractor-trailer company will have to pay $5,000 to $10,000 in damages for towing and to the state to fix the interstate. The company is also liable for cleanup.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this developing story.

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