I-20 crashes tie up traffic for hours|[3/30/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Eastbound traffic on Interstate 20 was stalled Tuesday after three wrecks involving 18-wheelers, the third of which damaged a concrete guardrail above Clay Street.

No truckers were reported hurt in any of the wrecks, the third of which backed up vehicles for more than two hours.

The first wreck occurred near Flowers about 10 a.m. when an 18-wheeler driven by Craig Ludwig of Burnsville bumped another 18-wheeler driven by Vanyel Muhammad from Baton Rouge, said state Trooper Wayne Smith.

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Ludwig’s rig jackknifed across both lanes, blocking traffic for close to half an hour while the rig was moved.

A second, unrelated wreck happened about 10:32 a.m. near the on-ramp from Clay Street when a 1994 Ford Escort driven by Mary Nelson, 494 Kirkland Road, was entering the interstate from the ramp and became entangled with another 18-wheeler, Vicksburg Police Officer Bobby Jones said. The Escort wound up in a ditch, requiring removal by wrecker.

About 20 minutes later and about a half-mile to the west, another 18-wheeler approaching the traffic stopped for the earlier wreck, and its brakes locked before the truck careened into the guardrail outside the left lane of the Clay Street overpass.

The driver, Jason Hall, 25, 1054 S. Main St., Mendenhall, was wearing his seat belt and was not injured, though the truck was traveling at about 60 mph when it hit the rail, Jones said.

The impact destroyed a stretch of the guardrail about 15 yards long and directly above Clay Street. Chunks of concrete weighing up to 20 pounds were knocked to the road below. The truck’s entire windshield landed on grass just north of Clay Street.

“The only thing that kept (Hall) from doing that was his seat belt,” Jones said.

One car on Clay Street reported a blowout from the debris. “They were lucky,” Patrolman Gevon Smith said of drivers passing under the damaged bridge as concrete fell.

Hall said the trailer of his truck had no cargo and he was headed back to a Jackson depot for another load after making deliveries in the Monroe, La., area. “Guess that’s not going to happen,” he said, examining the twisted remains of his truck.

From the earlier wreck, Nelson had one passenger, Katie Gray, 67, 1419 High St., and both were taken to River Region Medical Center, where they were treated and released, spokesman Diane Gawronski said.

The driver of the 18-wheeler in that wreck was identified as Pay Coyne, 37, 239 Shady Lane, White House, Tenn.

Police directed traffic off I-20 onto the East Clay Street exit, to Beechwood, then back onto I-20 east until about 2:30 p.m. The maintenance supervisor of the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Vicksburg office, Lamar Davis, said one lane was opened then and both lanes were open by about 3:20 p.m.

“We put some temporary barricades up to help protect motorists until we get it fixed,” Davis said of orange plastic material that was placed on the northwest side of the eastbound overpass.

Davis said he did not know how long it would take the MDOT to get the concrete guardrail repaired.