It all began when a semi-truck hauling cement mixer parts overturned just north of the I-40/I-85split - close to the N.C. 86 exit - in Hillsborough around 10 a.m.
In 911 calls released Friday, a woman said she was in front of the truck when it happened.
"I looked in my rearview mirror, and saw it flying down the road sideways," said the caller.
Another caller said the driver was hurt.
"He's scratched up pretty good," said the man.
NCHP Sergeant Jorge Brewer said truck driver Steven Craig Thompson, 42, of Garner, was speeding when he lost control and overturned. He was charged with exceeding the posted speed limit.
As traffic slowed to avoid the crash, 911 callers reported a second accident.
"You got a second accident where people were trying to stop for the first accident," a man reported. "There's a lot of fire. I'm not sure if it's a tanker or not, but it's nasty."
In the second crash, Trooper Brewer said the driver of a big rig failed to stop in time and plowed into a tanker truck. The gas tanks on the first truck erupted in flames, killing the driver, who was identified Friday as 44-year-old Billy Dean Brady Jr. of Kings Mountain, NC. He worked for Truck Service Inc. based in Forest City, NC.
Smaller vehicles were also involved in the collision. A total of six people hurt in the two accidents were taken to area hospitals.
The crashes tied up traffic on the interstate in both directions for hours. The last blocked lane finally reopened about 8:30 p.m.