WYTHE COUNTY – Deer sparked a chain reaction collision on Interstate 81 early Monday that killed one truck driver and about a dozen cattle and left a second truck driver with life-threatening injuries.
According to Virginia State Police, an Arkansas truck driver died when his rig collided with a second rig that had overturned, blocking both northbound lanes of the interstate at the 58 mile marker.
The string of events started around 3:40 a.m. when a tractor-trailer hauling livestock encountered three deer in the northbound lanes. Police said the driver, Marion F. Dale, 59, of Dunn, N.C., ran off the road into the median when he swerved to miss the deer. Dale allegedly overcorrected in an attempt to bring the truck back onto the road. This caused the rig to overturn with the trailer blocking both northbound lanes.
Only moments later, a second northbound tractor-trailer truck struck Dale’s trailer, “severely” damaging both rigs and causing them to become entangled. The driver of the second rig, who was wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene. His identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
After the second collision, a third northbound truck driven by Randall T. Hawkins, 43, of Tennessee, started to swerve and overturned onto its side when its load shifted as it attempted to slow to avoid the wreck. The third truck then came to rest against the other two rigs. Hawkins was treated at the scene for minor injuries.
State Police said Dale’s injuries were not life-threatening. However, a passenger in his rig, David H. Jones of Wade, N.C. does have life-threatening injuries. Jones was transported by ambulance to Smyth County Community Hospital and then was airlifted to Bristol Regional Medical Center.
According to State Police, about half of the approximately 30 cattle being hauled by Dale survived the crash. Some of the livestock wandered away from the wreck and had to be rounded up by law enforcement. A veterinarian euthanized the cattle that could not be saved.
The livestock was being transported from Knoxville, Tenn. to Godwin, N.C. The surviving animals were taken to Wytheville Livestock Market, where they are being housed until further arrangements can be made.
Dale has been charged with reckless driving.
The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Team and Wytheville Division Accident Reconstruction Team are continuing the investigation, along with Trooper R. A. Evans.