WCAV-WVAW-WAHU | Charlottesville, Virginia | News

SUV Hits Guardrail and Catches Fire on I-81

June 2, 2010

Interstate 81 has returned to normal following a fiery crash near exit 257 Tuesday evening.

Witnesses say an SUV crashed into a guardrail and flipped over on the northbound side. Black smoke billowed into the air as the interstate was shut down during the evening commute. Traffic was backed up about four miles.

State police say the crash happened at about 5:05 p.m. The left lane was re-opened to traffic shortly before 6:30 p.m.

Mark McLean says he was driving behind the SUV before it crashed. They were both going northbound. McLean says suddenly the SUV went across the median to the southbound side.

"It was pretty scary to see him come across that median and come back down. We didn't know where he was going to go," says McLean.

McLean says the car came back to the northbound side but didn't hit anyone else before it crashed into the guardrail.

Virginia State Police Trooper Bernard Boteler says Jerry Hawkins Jr. was driving the car. Police charged Hawkins with reckless driving. Witnesses say Hawkins only had minor injuries when he escaped from the SUV.

Hawkins didn't want to go on camera but said he fell asleep at the wheel and didn't know anything was wrong until he hit the guardrail.

"This guardrail was damaged previously. I understand it was in an accident a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately the guardrail was still in place," says Boteler.

McLean says even as the car was on fire, several people drove past.

"That could explode at any time, and they just kept driving by until the police finally got here and actually stopped them from coming through. But it didn't seem to phase them a bit to see a car overturned," says McLean.

State police say just as the interstate was clearing, another minor crash happened a few miles south.

The comments sections of Newsplex.com are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from our viewers, but we only ask that you use your best judgment. E-mail is required, but will not be displayed with comment.

  • Comments cannot be profane or vulgar. We will not post comments that use profanity or cross the lines of good taste.
  • We will not post comments that use hate speech. Slurs, stereotypes and violent talk aren’t welcome on our website.
  • Comments should not attack other readers or people featured in our stories personally. Any accusations should be backed up with facts.
  • Any comment we post will be posted in its entirety. We do not edit any comment that we post.
  • Comments should contribute to the discussion. We will not post comments that don't advance the discussion. Flaming and/or trolling will not be tolerated.
  • Comments should not attack other posters. Let's keep the focus on the content of the story.

    As a host Newsplex.com welcomes a wide spectrum of opinions. However this is a site that we host. We have a responsibility to all our readers to try to keep our comment section fair and decent. For that reason The Newsplex reserves the right to not post or to remove any comment.

    If you have any ideas to improve the conversation or this section let us know. Send an e-mail to webmaster@newsplex.com.


powered by Disqus
The Charlottesville Newsplex 999 2nd Street S.E. Charlottesville, VA 22902 434.242.1919 – Main 434.220.7522 - Newsroom
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 95414019