CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A tractor-trailer crashed into three fire trucks along Interstate 85 in Rowan County Tuesday morning, closing the southbound lanes, Highway Patrol says.
The wreck happened on I-85 southbound near the Yadkin River Bridge, mile marker 82, around 4 a.m. Highway Patrol says a tractor-trailer struck three Millers Ferry fire trucks that were responding to a tractor trailer fire.
As firefighters were working to put out the flames, another tractor trailer struck one of the fire trucks, causing a chain reaction and pushing it into the other two. The fire trucks shielded the firefighters from traffic and likely saved their lives, officials said.
“Shielding puts vehicles in front of the firefighters so in case something happens like it did today, the vehicles that are struck basically pancake into each other taking the force of the brunt of the vehicles that is hitting them and keeping the firefighters safe,” said Allen Cress, interim head of Rowan Emergency Services.
All southbound lanes were open around noon.
The driver of the tractor-trailer was hurt. The fire crews were not injured.
According to the North Carolina State Highway patrol, the truck driver has been identified as Nelido Ortiz of Greensboro. He suffered burns in the accident. Ortiz was taken to Novant Health Rowan, then transferred to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. His condition is not known.
Troopers say charges are pending for failing to move over and failing to reduce speed.
For an alternate route, commuters may take Exit 84 for NC-150 W/US-29 S/US-70 W and continue 3 miles, turn left onto E Jefferson St and continue onto Andrews Street to re-acess I-85 at Exit 79.
The fire trucks involved - all from the Millers Ferry Fire Department - sustained damage. Officials say other departments will step in to help while MFFD is missing the trucks.