UPDATE: State police identify man who died in fiery accident Saturday on I-81 near Christiansburg

By  | 

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) State police have identified the man who died in Saturday's fiery crash on Interstate 81 near Christiansburg.

Photo: Casey Taylor

Jeffery Pritchard was 62. He lived in Pulaski.

The accident tied up traffic for several hours.

ORIGINAL STORY

Neighbors say they heard a tire blow which is normal, but it's the second explosion that caught them off guard.

Carol Love said, "I never saw anything burn like that in my life… I jumped out of my chair and ran to the kitchen window, looked out and saw the fire and black smoke."

The truck was headed southbound around 11:30 when it overturned near mile marker 114.

"That's when my house shook,” she said. “It felt just like an earthquake going off.

All this led to I-81 completely shutting down for about three hours.

"Next thing I know the traffic was backing up everywhere, and we had another explosion and it kept exploding,” said Love.

She says the fuel truck exploded about three times, sending a dark cloud that could be seen as far as Virginia Tech's campus.

"That black smoke? It looked like the smoke was all the way up to the clouds,” she said.

Love's house sits 230 feet away from the interstate. Saturday, she found out how close that really is.

She said, "And the heat you could feel it all the way up to the back of my house back there."

It's a sight Carol Love will never forget, and one she never wants to see again.

"Just pray for that man that was in that truck,” she said.

UPDATE

One lane of I-81 North and South are back open following a tractor-trailer accident.

Virginia State Police have confirmed that a person died in the accident.

There are still delays in the area, so drivers should find alternate routes if possible.

UPDATE

VDOT will be opening the shoulder on both the northbound and southbound sides of I-81 near Christiansburg in order to get the traffic moving.

It will still be a while before the accident is cleared.

The tractor-trailer was hauling fuel. The tractor-trailer was the only vehicle involved.

ORIGINAL STORY

A tractor-trailer that overturned and caught on fire on Interstate 81 near Christiansburg has closed the interstate.

Just after 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a tractor-trailer was driving south on I-81. After overturning, the trator-trailer and its contents caught fire and fully engulfed the tractor-trailer.

The tractor-trailer was driven by Jeffery Pritchard, 62, of Pulaski. Pritchard was wearing his seatbelt and died at the scene.

The tractor-trailer was hauling diesel fuel and was the only vehicle involved in the crash.

The Virginia Department of Transportation closed several lanes while the cleanup was conducted to evaluate the damage to the roadway.

The fire occurred near mile marker 114.

The crash remains under investigation.

Here is more information from state police:

Interstate 81 at the 113.8 Northbound, there is a tractor trailer which has overturned in the median and is on fire. It is fully engulfed and the fire unit and police are on scene. Traffic has been stopped in order to let fire units deal with the fire.

Both north and south bound lanes are shut down.