Tractor-trailer driver, passenger killed in fiery I-85 crash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After nearly 11 hours, crews reopened the northbound lanes of Interstate 85 after a tractor-trailer crashed and caught fire early Wednesday morning, causing massive traffic headaches for motorists in north Charlotte.

Troopers told Channel 9 that the passenger in that tractor-trailer, 45-year-old Rodney Watson of Mississippi, died on Wednesday and said the driver, 22-year-old Christopher Dyer of Georgia, died Thursday morning.

The crash happened around 4:30 a.m. on I-85 just before Sugar Creek Road at the Highway 29/49 connector.

The lanes were reopened around 3 p.m.

Officials said the big-rig, which was carrying bales of cotton, struck the bridge and caught fire.

A witness told Channel 9 that they were driving behind the tractor-trailer when it veered to the right and hit the bridge before catching fire.

All four northbound lanes of the interstate were closed at I-77 and fire crews also were blocking portions of Highway 29/49.

Emergency spill response crews were testing to see if any diesel fuel spilled during the wreck.

Many drivers were stuck for three hours before officials could get them off the interstate.

Chopper 9 flew over the scene around 8 a.m. and could see the far left northbound lane was reopened, but that traffic was backed up nearly four miles to I-77.

Department of Transportation officials had closed off the remaining three lanes into Wednesday afternoon while the DOT and EPA worked to inspect the bridge and clean up the crash scene.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the crash and looking at whether fatigue may have played a role.

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