SPRING LAKE (WTVD) -- Icy roads were to blame for an accident that killed a Fayetteville man and shut down a major highway for more than seven hours Friday.
It happened around 7:45 a.m. along Highway 87 in Spring Lake - near the Harnett and Cumberland County line.
Authorities said a white pickup truck collided with a semi truck after water from a natural underground spring flowed into the roadway and froze overnight. The trucks burst into flames after fuel spewed from the larger vehicle.
The man driving the pickup, identified by family members as 30-year-old Saul Vasquez of Fayetteville, died at the scene. The unidentified driver of the big rig was not injured. He was driving a truck belonging to Greensboro-based Stout Trucking.
Silvia Vasquez said her husband of two years was on his way to work at a Mexican restaurant in Harnett County when he slid across the ice.
She spoke to Eyewitness News through a translator Friday afternoon. Through tears she described her husband as hardworking and responsible.
"He's been here for 20 years, never had any enemies," Vasquez said through the translator. "Everybody knew him. He was a good guy."
"They're very sad this happened and ever since they've been together he's always been good to her," the translator said. "They're very upset about it."
Authorities completely shut Highway 87 down for several hours, re-routing traffic along Highway 210. Just before noon, one lane of 87 re-opened, as authorities alternated northbound and southbound traffic to try and relieve congestion. At one point, traffic backed up into Harnett County for more than 10 miles, nearing Highway 24.
NEIGHBORS, SOLDIERS TRIED TO SAVE VICTIM
Robert McDermott heard the crash in front of his home, and he didn't hesitate for a moment. As he called 911, a group of soldiers on their way to work and the semi-truck driver joined McDermott to pry Vasquez out of the truck, which was in flames.
"He was pinned," said McDermott. "We tried to bust the door loose and the door was jammed. We finally got the door off and were able to get the gentleman out of the vehicle."
McDermott said he, along with a group of soldiers, carried Vasquez to the side of the road, but were unable to save him. He remained unresponsive, and was declared deceased at the hospital.
"I was just trying to help, hoping the gentleman was going to make it, hoping he was going to be alright," said McDermott. "My heart goes out to his family."
A PROBLEM AREA
McDermott and other neighbors have complained for years about icy conditions due to the underground natural spring.
Several years ago, the DOT relocated a drainage system for the spring, but McDermott said it just caused overflow in another part of his yard, and an icy driveway.
His wife had just spun out on the ice as she backed out of the driveway shortly before the accident took place.
"We've have several accidents out here when the weather gets bad," said McDermott, noting people who spin out in his front yard. "In the past, there's always at least two or three every winter."
"Again though, if there is black ice anywhere on any of the roads and it is below freezing, unfortunately there is little we can do about it," said Ginny Inman, a NCDOT spokeswoman, in an email.
McDermott notes that until Friday, he'd never witnessed a fatal accident in the six years he's lived there. But he said Vasquez's death highlighted the dangers of the underground natural water supply.
"Maybe this can bring some resolution to this issue we've been having out here for several years," said McDermott.
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