DUPONT — The driver of a tractor trailer was killed Monday morning, Dec. 16 in a fire that happened along Interstate 5 southbound at Mounts Road near the Pierce-Thurston county line.
A second person, the driver of a pickup that caused the collision, was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries, according to Washington State Patrol spokesman Trooper Guy Gill.
Two men in a box truck that was also hit and caught on fire walked away from the incident with minor injuries.
All southbound lanes of I-5 were closed while emergency crews responded. The far left lane is now open and a detour has been set up at Mounts Road in DuPont to move the majority of traffic off I-5, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord opened its Mounts Road gate to help alleviate some of the backup, Gill said.
During the closure backups extended more than 9 miles on I-5 through Lakewood.
Tow trucks are headed to the scene, but it will be hours before the roadway fully opens, Gill said.
The incident happened at 10:15 a.m. when a pickup truck hauling a trailer north on I-5 crossed the grass median into the southbound lanes of traffic. The pickup, driven by an adult male, hit the box truck and then the tractor trailer, Gill said.
Two men in the box truck were wearing their seat belts and were able to walk away from the scene. The men credit the seat belts with saving their lives, Gill said.
Photos from the scene show the box truck and tractor trailer burned beyond recognition.
"That vehicle is completely burned to the ground," Gill said of the tractor trailer. "The tires on the trailer are gone. The steel wheels are on the ground."
Photos also show the pickup truck with severe damage to the cab and personal items, including two kayaks, strewn across the roadway.
The driver of the tractor trailer was pronounced dead on the scene. It's unknown at this time if he was wearing his seat belt, Gill said.
The driver of the pickup was wearing a seat belt. Nothing at the scene indicates the man was impaired while driving, but investigators don't know for sure, Gill said. They're also looking to see whether the man had a medical complication that would have caused him to cross into oncoming traffic.
Crews are working as fast as they can to clear the scene. Backups are expected to get worse this afternoon when more cars travel that stretch of roadway.