Traffic delayed for hours after semi crash on I-71 in Henry County - News, Weather & Sports

Traffic delayed for hours after semi crash on I-71 in Henry County

Posted: Updated:
Kathy Lovelace Kathy Lovelace
Bruce Owens Bruce Owens
Diane Whitehouse Diane Whitehouse

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Interstate 71 was shut down in both directions for several hours Thursday because of an accident around 4:30 a.m. at the Pendleton exit in Henry County. 

Morning commuters were stuck in traffic for at least three hours before the northbound and southbound lanes were partially reopened.

According to Kentucky State Police, a tractor-trailer had mechanical problems in the northbound lane around 4:30 a.m. The driver says he tried to pull to the right shoulder of the interstate, but part of his truck was still in the roadway. He called 911 for help, then got out of the truck to set up orange emergency cones to warn oncoming traffic.

Just after the phone call, a tanker hauling motor oil clipped the stalled tractor-trailer, careened into the median and burst into flames.

The driver of the stalled tractor-trailer was not hurt, but the driver of the tanker and one passengers were hospitalized with minor injuries.

Kathy Lovelace says she was the only witness to the crash.

"And when I looked up, them two 18-wheelers hit each other, and it went up like a mushroom bomb," Lovelace said. "It exploded. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen in my life."

The accident closed both the northbound and southbound lanes and halted traffic for three hours, stranding thousands of drivers, including Bruce Owens, Henry County's Director of Emergency Management.

"I asked which exit to come on and I got some bad information," Owens said.

Some commuters spent the next few hours sleeping in their cars, while others tried to figure out what was going on.

"I have my telephone," said Diane Whitehouse, who was headed back home to Cleveland after visiting her mother in La Grange. "It has internet, so I've been reading what's going on. It's a pretty serious accident."

It was serious enough to turn the interstate into a parking lot in both directions, which left drivers looking for any way around it.

One of the northbound lanes finally re-opened around 7-30 a.m. - three hours after the accident, which put quite a kink in some people's day.

"I probably won't be riding into the office," Whitehouse said. "I'll probably be going home and working from home.�

KSP officials say they do not expect any charges.

Copyright 2009 WAVE-TV and Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.