By Wendy Holdren
A collision between a FedEx tractor trailer and a passenger car on I-77 Thursday around 2 p.m. sent three people to the hospital and caused traffic delays for hours on the northbound lanes of the interstate, as well as other connector roads in and around Beckley.
Beckley Fire Department Cpt. Gary Raines confirmed three injuries occurred in the accident; a passenger in the car was airlifted to a Charleston hospital and the drivers of both the FedEx truck and car were transported to a local hospital. No report on those injured was available at press time.
Raines said a silver Honda Civic crossed from the southbound lanes of traffic into the northbound lanes; the FedEx driver attempted to swerve to avoid the collision, but was unsuccessful.
The FedEx truck caught fire and when Mabscott and Bradley Fire Departments arrived on scene, firefighters realized the truck was hauling lithium, a dry corrosive.
Southbound lanes of traffic were shut down and the Beckley Fire Department was dispatched to the scene to set up decontamination for those exposed to the chemical.
Raines said a decontamination site was established at Raleigh General Hospital. Initially, two people were believed to be exposed to the chemical, but Raines said later they found out that no one was exposed.
Detour C was activated for the turnpike around 5 p.m. for northbound travelers on I-77. Drivers were prompted to take exit 40 to Route 19 North, re-entering I-77 at North Beckley mile marker 48.
Dispatchers from both Raleigh County and Turnpike Operations said traffic still was backed up for miles on the interstate and other routes well into Thursday evening.