By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Two drivers were sent to the hospital after a six-vehicle crash Tuesday morning on I-75.
According to Whitley County Sheriff Deputy Jeff Anderson, who leads the investigation, four tractor-trailers, a van and a sports car were all involved in the pileup.
The crash shut down both southbound lanes of traffic for more than five hours, and hundreds of drivers were rerouted onto southbound U.S. 25 from Exit 11.
Anderson said a Jaguar, driven by 63-year-old Joseph Wilford Jr., of Sevierville, Tenn., lost control on the wet road and crashed into a tractor-trailer driven by James Edward Holland, of Lakeland, Fla. That truck was hauling electronics.
“That’s what started this whole crash,” Anderson said.
Wilford suffered some minor injuries, and was treated and released from Jellico Community Hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Holland was not injured.
Two logging tractor-trailers owned by Patterson Chip Company in Barbourville ended up involved in the crash as well, Anderson said. One driver, Bruce Helton, of Gray, was not injured. The other truck driver, Frankie Gray, of London, suffered “multiple injuries,” according to Anderson.
“He had back, chest and other injuries,” Anderson added, saying he was also transported to Jellico Community Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman said he was also treated and released.
The fourth tractor-trailer involved was driven by Robert Schwenk of Madisonville, Tenn.
The contents of his truck left a heavy smell of ketchup in the air, despite the heavy deluge of rain. Schwenk was hauling food products for Transit One Trucking of Sweetwater, Tenn., including ketchup, barbecue sauce, thousand island dressing and ranch dressing — all of which was strewn across the interstate.
Also in the crash was a Dodge Caravan.
Billy Kidd, of South Carolina, the driver of the Dodge, said the driver of the Jaguar was going fast and “hydroplaned,” crashing into the tractor-trailer. He tried to avoid the crash but was unsuccessful.
His passenger, Don Hazlett, also from South Carolina, agreed with Kidd concerning the cause of the crash.
“He was going too fast,” Hazlett said. Neither man was injured.
The crash shut down both southbound lanes until 12:30 p.m., but getting traffic moving again proved somewhat more difficult. Several truckers took the opportunity to get sleep, and others developed vehicular problems waiting for the interstate to reopen. However, by 1 p.m. traffic was flowing again.
Assisting at the scene were members of the South Whitley County Volunteer Fire Department, the Williamsburg Police Department, the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, including Deputy Todd Shelley, Whitley County EMS, Jellico EMS, and two troopers with the Kentucky State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.
Shelley also worked a two-vehicle crash just a half-mile before the larger crash site, which occurred about the same time as the big crash. Shelley said an Econoline van crossed into the passing lane into the path of a snack cake delivery truck, sending the truck into the median. That truck hit and heavily damaged the guardrail and the truck.
In the multi-vehicle crash, Anderson said no charges will likely be filed but that the investigation continues.