By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Separate wrecks that occurred just 20 minutes apart in Wise and Buchanan counties Tuesday claimed the lives of two Virginia residents.
The first wreck, at 8:20 a.m. in Wise County, occurred when an eastbound 2006 Mitsubishi Galant crossed the centerline of Route 646 and slid into the path of a westbound 2007 Jeep Cherokee Laredo, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
Linda R. Franklin, 46, of Big Stone Gap, died at the scene. The driver of the Jeep, Patricia I. Rose, 57, of Nora, received serious, but non-life threatening injuries. Both women were wearing seatbelts.
The wreck remains under investigation, but Geller said alcohol wasn’t a factor.
At 8:40 a.m., a Cedar Bluff man died when he was partially ejected from his tractor-trailer after it caught fire and wrecked on Route 680 in Buchanan County.
Geller said a witness indicated the truck’s brakes were smoking heavily as it traveled downhill and into a curve. At the bottom of the hill, the truck hit a utility pole, road sign and railroad bridge, then ran off the right side of the road, down an embankment and overturned on its top in Dismal Creek.
The investigation determined the underneath of the tractor-trailer caught fire just moments before the wreck. It was carrying a full load of rock dust.
The investigation continues.