Southbound I-95 reopens after 3 crashes in Johnston Co.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016
Southbound I-95 still closed after string of crashes
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Southbound lanes remain closed at Exit 95

JOHNSTON COUNTY, NC (WTVD) -- Interstate 95 near Smithfield reopened Thursday after a fiery crash involving hazardous materials at Exit 95 forced an evacuation of the area.

Northbound lanes reopened Thursday morning, and southbound lanes reopened at Exit 95 just before 6 p.m.

An evacuation order was also lifted early Thursday morning for Johnston Community College, Carolina Premium Outlets, and nearby homes because of the toxic fumes caused by the wreck.

Johnston County Schools opened on a two-hour delay Thursday due to lingering issues. All town offices in Smithfield, including Town Hall and Smithfield Recreation and Aquatic Center are now open.

The Wednesday afternoon crash prompted Johnston County officials to open shelters at Cleveland High School and Princeton High School to house residents within a 3-mile radius of the wreck site. Emergency services said there were about 40 people who sought shelter.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol said an RV hit the back of a tractor trailer possibly hauling some type of corrosive chemical just after 1:30 p.m., and then both vehicles ignited.

"I saw a giant flame come up then smoke," said Sam Walter, an eyewitness to the crash.

Smoke billows from a fire on the interstate. (image courtesy Selma Fire Department)

Jennifer Clark, a manager at Hot Topic, said a security guard was going store to store, evacuating people.

They were like "come on there's a big chemical cloud out here from the accident," Clark recalled.

Johnston County officials told hospitals, assisted living facilities and other facilities with special populations to remain at their facility and shut down all air handlers, close all exterior vents, windows and doors due to fumes from the wreckage.

Smoke from the fire is seen from a nearby road.
ABC11 Eyewitness Photo

Residents in the area were also told not to go outside, and that all pets should be brought inside.

The fiery crash was just one of three crashes on the interstate. That one was close to mile marker 95 in the southbound lanes, while the first one was towards southbound mile marker 90 and the third one around northbound mile marker 88.

The first accident happened around 1 p.m. and involved an 18-wheeler that ran off the road and into a guard rail. The driver was pinned, and emergency workers had to cut him out of the cab.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol said the third incident happened when an RV was rear-ended by a moving van, causing the RV to lose control. It was struck by a second car, and that car was struck by a tractor trailer, which propelled the car into a second tractor trailer.

Two people in the RV were killed, state troopers said. A third person was rushed to a hospital.