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Interstate crashes cause delays, fatality

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The cab of this tractor trailer hangs over a guard rail on southbound Interstate 81 near Cedar Creek in Shenandoah County on Tuesday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

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A truck driver waits outside his crashed rig along Interstate 81 near mile marker 300 during the string of crashes Tuesday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Evan Livick, of Richmond, makes a call on his cell phone while northbound Interstate 81 traffic is at a stand still Tuesday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Shenandoah County Sheriff's Deputy Kolter Stroop stands along the scene of this tractor trailer crash where the tractor went over the Cedar Creek bridge near Strasburg Tuesday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Dale Bowers, of Woodstock, sits in his portable chair with his Nook while traffic was stopped along Interstate 81 at Cedar Creek. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

A fatality and several other crashes within a few miles and a few hours of each other on Interstates 66 and 81 left traffic in chaos Tuesday in Warren and Shenandoah counties.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued a traffic alert at 6:44 p.m. stating that the left and right westbound lanes at mile marker 4 on I-66 were closed by a tractor-trailer crash. Sgt. F.L. "Les" Tyler of the Virginia State Police confirmed at 8 p.m. that the crash was a fatality. He had no further details.

The right and left shoulders of westbound I-66 were also closed, according to VDOT.

Nine minutes earlier, VDOT had issued another alert that traffic at mile marker 299 in the southbound lane of Interstate 81 in Shenandoah County was backed up for about 11 miles. The agency reported the right lane and shoulder of the road were closed and warned motorists to "expect major delays due to numerous crashes."

The trouble began in mid-afternoon with two crashes reported within less than a mile of each other in the southbound lane of I-81. The second of the two crashes, at mile marker 299, left the cab of a tractor-trailer suspended over a bridge guardrail and above an embankment leading down to Cedar Creek. Another semi-tractor trailer with a dented rear end was parked about 30 yards south.

Traffic in the southbound lane reopened at 4:06 p.m. but was closed again within an hour and backed up for miles on westbound I-66. Not long after, VDOT reported the tractor-trailer crash at mile marker 4 on I-66.

Tyler reported the crash at the Cedar Creek bridge involved three tractor trailers, but that the sequence of events began with another crash that happened at 2:30 or 2:45 p.m. about a half mile south at mile marker 298. No details were available on the first crash.

Traffic had backed up from the first crash, which led to the Cedar Creek crash, Tyler said. He said one semi, a 1978 Peterbilt driven by Francisco J. Cerda-Bautisa, 26, of McClaren, Texas, came up on the slowing traffic and struck two other tractor-trailers from behind. Tyler said the Peterbilt went off the right side of the road and hit the bridge before coming to a rest with the cab hanging over the guardrail and the trailer remaining on the roadway.

Cerda-Bautisa was taken to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital with minor injuries, according to Tyler. He said Trooper D.A. Mauck issued a citation to Cerda-Bautisa for following too close.

Tyler said the crash caused some spillage of diesel fuel, and VDOT estimated damage to the bridge at $50,000.

Tyler said several other minor crashes were reported south of the tractor-trailer crash.

At about 4:30 p.m. in the southbound lane of I-81, three people involved in an crash about a half-mile north of the three tractor-trailers watched as tow trucks and paramedics finished clearing the scene.

Joyce Washington, 52, of Harrisonburg, reported that her husband, Lawrence, 52, also of Harrisonburg, was in the ambulance and being treated for neck and shoulder pain. Washington said she was "kind of shook up" and wanted to get "her neck checked out."

Washington said their car, a Lincoln sedan, was hit from behind by a Toyota Corolla at around the same time that the tractor-trailer went over the guardrail a half-mile ahead of them.

The driver of the Corolla, Michael Osborne, 79, also of Harrisonburg, agreed that he hit the Washington car from behind. Osborne said he and his wife, Joyce, 80, were uninjured.

Osborne said a third vehicle was also involved in the crash, but had already driven away. He said that vehicle was the first to be hit in the crash. It was struck from behind by the Washington car after he had hit the Washington car, Osborne said.

"I plowed into that one, and he ran into the one in front of him," Osborne said, describing the chain reaction after he hit the Washington car.

Osborne said he didn't know if the tractor-trailer crash a half-mile farther up the road played a part in his crash. He said heavy rain and traffic flow exiting from I-66 southbound onto I-81 was a major reason why he hit the Washington car.

"At that point, we got hit by this humongous rain storm," he said, describing the moments before crash as he entered I-81 southbound.


There are too many irresponsible drivers on the highways & interstates today: we've all seen them. Excess speed is the biggest problem along with chatting on cell phones, texting, and following too close (just to name a few).

When a person gets behind the wheel, the concentration and focus should be on driving ONLY. Accidents don't just happen, they are caused. Everyone needs to take the responsibility of driving more seriously: these crashes are becoming too common and another life has been loss.

The numerous 'accidents' on I-81 and other interstate highways are the inevitable result of higher vehicle speeds, following too closely, and failure to adjust to weather conditions. The above article identifies two of these factors in the cited crashes.

With the 70 mph speed limit (rarely observed), the volume of traffic - including heavy trucks, and the driving habits of many folks, iI feel like I'm playing Russian Roulette every time I use the interstate highway system, no matter how carefully I drive.

That is the conclusion I came to about 6 years ago. Rt 11 is the only way I travel. I leave a little earlier and actually enjoy the ride. I know this is not feasable for everyone, and frankly I would not want everyone to do this. Driving Rt 11 might prevent some idiot human on the interstate from taking your life away or just something as simple as a blown tire pulling you into a big truck. Who knows with high speeds, multiple lanes, massive vehicles and morons.

All good points. We travel in a truck, and we were stuck in this for hours yesterday. Complaints from this side are the same, in particular towards the four wheelers - learn how to merge - it's not our place to yield to you, but we try when we can. Also, stay clear of the area around the trucks....do not cut over right in front of us for a lane change, and get off the phone! There's a whole lot of stupid out there.


Can you give me the Powerball numbers for tonight? You seem to know everything. Thanks...

We have a winner!!! Moderate gets the prize for best comment of the week.

Common sense will give you the same information that I often attempt to share. No, I don't guess what random number will be picked and if I had a gift for knowing, I would already be a lotto winner.

On other subjects of interest to me, I research and research and THINK eventually coming to some conclusion.

TRY IT - you've got a brain too. Polish it off and see what happens.

To Windshield - I don't envy what you have to put up with as a trucker. I am always respectful of 18-wheelers, and they are almost always respectful of me (there are always a few anywhere, aren't there?!).
To Diana - I don't think it's what you're saying, but you do come across as if you are the only good driver out there. There are many of us, and we know the answers as well as you do. It's just off-putting and you are not getting through to anybody with the preaching. You kind of walked into the jibes.

It is amazing to see so many people instantly blame speed for the crashes. There is no proof that speed is causing the accidents. A much greater problem are those who hang out in the left lane despite the fact that they are not passing anyone while others are behind them wanting to pass. This disrupts traffic flow. Additionally, it is against the law to do so since the law states you must keep right except to pass. Another problem is the attentive clowns who decide to change lanes without looking or preoccupy themselves with distractions instead of what is happening on the road.

But lets just keep blaming speed. After all, we can at least get a radar gun on that, right?

when 81 was built it was to handle 35000 veicles A day --Now there is more than that in big trucks ..The way I see it act like you have some sence -understand trucks can't stop on A dime .

I'd like to commend 'whatever' on the use of the letter A.

Reminds me of Electric Company

Speed and following too close are huge problems on the highway. Most of the accidents are becuase when there is a wreck, on down the road people cant slow down fast enough, 1 second they are going 80 mile an hour then you are almost at a standstill. Tractor trailers cant slow down as fast as a car. So if a car cant slow down in time how can a truck? I think it was Todd Gilbert who said raising the speed limit would cause less accidents because people would be going faster and on the road less time. It didn't make since then and it still doesn't.


The speed limit is only 65 where the accident took place.


I drive on 81 pretty much seven days a week for work and to get to wherever it is I'm going. I've been doing this for 8 years now, so I'm fairly experienced at interstate driving. For those of you who drive on the interstate, here are some pointers: If you are passing, use your blinkers!, If it's raining/foggy, turn on your headlights. Watch the road not your phone, gps, map, newspaper (I've seen truckers many a time reading the paper while driving). Don't try to squeeze vehicle between two cars when there is no room, cutting off the person behind you. Don't drive slow, then speed up when someone is trying to pass you. If you're doing LESS than 75 (where the speed limit is 70) get in the right lane. You're holding up traffic. People these days are always in a hurry to get somewhere (like work), and your slow driving is causing road rage. If you're in the left lane and someone comes up behind you and flashes their lights, it means, MOVE. Also, don't drive up beside another vehicle and keep pace with them, blocking anyone from passing you. These things are rude (in the driving world), so use your best roadway manners.
A posted speed limit doesn't keep people from speeding. Whether it's 65 or 70, if somebody wants to drive faster than that, they'll do it. Get out of their way, and let them pass. You never know why someone is speeding. They could actually have a valid and important reason for rushing.

Are you a flasher Candi, I would suspect you are. If someone blocks you from passing, perhaps you were driving in such a manner that provoked them? – Flash me and you can be darn sure – I’ll not move over!
When a person comes up on you and flashes their lights, it does not mean move – what it means?
The person flashing is a rude, impatient donkey. It makes no difference what speed limit you are doing – inevitably you will have folks that think their life is the most important, they have little or no regard for speed limits, safety. Don’t be in such a hurray! Leave a bit earlier, be kind… It is free.

Flash me and be darn sure- I'll not move over. This statement is a clear example of the biggest problem on the roads today. You felt insulted so you are punishing the one who offended you. Emotions cloud drivers ability to drive correctly. You will be messing up the two lane system just because you were offended. You know an action such as this can cause the chances an accident happening to go up? Also if the person behind you (We'll call her Candi for fun) gets angry for your retaliation, I would not blame her because if you were Paying Attention you would have seen she was going faster and got out of the way like you are supposed to in the first place! Bottom line there is no place for emotions on the interstate. Unfortunately a high number of humans, no matter if they know better or not, will let their emotions influence their driving. So I will stick to Rt 11 where slower speed and driving single file just keeps us little creatures better in line.

This is not about emotions. It is folks like Candi that think they can drive the freeway as fast as they want, flash at people to get out of their way. No I won’t get over, why? They follow so close; they come out of now where! If I am doing the speed limit + I don’t have to move., The Candis needs to calm down - The law is clear, You are assuming I drive in the left lane – as this is not the case – I use this to pass – the slower moving traffic – when I can safely get in the right had lane I move back over.. It is the Candi’s that tailgate and make it unsafe to move over. SO, No I won’t move – back-off and leave me clear room. I drive 66 every day and I can assure you – It makes no difference what lane you are in - I won’t be bullied and forced to make an unsafe lane change. – SO flash me

I did not assume you were a left lane hanger outer that is what you yourself implied by responding to Candi's post. She was clearly speaking of the folks that hang in the left lane. If you are in the driving lane and are harassed that is not right as the speed limit is the maximum. Not the minimum. Most forget this. If you are in the passing lane it is not that difficult to monitor faster moving traffic behind you. This I think should also apply when you are passing slower moving traffic and someone else approaches faster. I think you should politely get back in the driving lane when safe, let them by, and then attempt to pass the slower traffic again after faster vehicles have passed. Also I don't agree with drivers who stay in the passing lane because they see a vehicle on up the road that they will pass at some point, that holds up faster moving traffic behind them just because they don't want to use the energy to get in the driving lane and then back in the passing lane after letting faster movers go by. I used to see this driver laziness and territorialness all the time.

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