HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A crash involving eight vehicles, including a tanker truck carrying tar as hot as 300 degrees, inside the eastbound tube of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel caused massive delays on both sides of the connector Wednesday morning.
A preliminary investigation by Virginia State Police found the driver of a Ford F-350 bucket truck, William Lewis Alexander Marakos, swerved to avoid stopped traffic, rear-ended a vehicle and ended up in the path of the tractor-trailer tanker.
The tractor-trailer hit the tunnel wall, causing it to jackknife. This caused a chain-reaction crash.
Marakos was later charged with following too close.
State Police said the tanker truck carrying hot tar could’ve added hours to the cleanup time had the scalding hot tar spilled inside the tunnel.
“We had to carefully remove all the vehicles from that tanker truck to make sure the tanker was not punctured … it had hot tar inside for asphalt,” says Sgt. Michelle Anaya with State Police.
Ken Reynard, the HRBT facility manager, says it could have been a lot worse.
“The tar is very hot. It is 300 degrees. It is a type of tar that they use in asphalt. Had that tar leaked it would have been a very extensive cleanup. If that happened we would have had to let it cool down, and the tunnel would be closed for a long period of time.”
Hampton Fire officials said in a tweet two people were taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries. The tweet also said a 6,500-gallon asphalt truck was involved in the crash.
An eastbound closure was in place for several hours. Travel lanes were reopened just after 11 a.m. on the HRBT.
Virginia Department of Transportation officials said the westbound side of I-64 at the HRBT was closed to allow for the eastbound side to clear. Traffic cameras showed drivers being turned around at the tunnel.
State Police said Mallory Street in Hampton was blocked while traffic was rerouted, with traffic also impacted along Interstate 664 and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel.
Detoured traffic from the HRBT caused a back-up on the MMMBT that stretched all the way to Aberdeen Road. VDOT’s traffic map showed back-up from the congestion was nearly 3 miles.
Kelvin Williams had a tough day on the receiving end of frustrated drivers stuck in traffic, some up to three hours.
“They were saying ‘oh man. Why can’t I go this way? What’s the problem? What happened?’ Hey, look I didn’t make the accident. I apologize, but I didn’t cause it. I’m here to divert traffic, and that’s all I’m trying to do.”
The crash also damaged the tunnel too.
“We did sustain damage to some handrails. It damaged some lighting and that sort of thing. Crews have been able to stabilize that now,” Reynard said.