WILKES — A wreck involving four vehicles — one a tractor-trailer — shut down U.S. 421 near the Watauga and Wilkes county line for at least five hours on Nov. 7.
State Highway Patrol Trooper J.L. Wilson said he received the call at 9:46 a.m. after a tractor-trailer had lost its brakes traveling out of Boone into Wilkes County in the 1500 block of the highway. All traffic was rerouted onto U.S. 221 in Deep Gap.
The truck — owned by Chassilors Terminal Trucking out of Orangeburg, S.C. — then struck three other vehicles. While some of the drivers suffered injuries, none were life-threatening.
“It’s absolutely nothing short of a miracle that life was not lost today,” Wilson said.
Wilson said witnesses claim the vehicle started smoking as it traveled into a construction zone near a sand pile, where it then struck and bounced off of a construction barrier, Wilson said. The tractor-trailer then rear-ended a 2014 Chevy pickup truck that was then propelled forward and to the right.
Losing control, the tractor-trailer skidded sideways and the trailer landed on top of a 2010 Lexus SUV.
The driver of the tractor-trailer then overcorrected, causing the load of lumber it was hauling to shift. The trailer then came back off of the 2010 Lexus, overturned, struck a 2008 Lexus SUV and finally came to rest in the median on U.S. 421, Wilson said.
Wilson said Trooper J.D. Berrong with the State Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Enforcement Administration did an inspection on the vehicle and determined that brake failure was a partial cause of the collision. He added that he does think speed was a factor in the collision, with the tractor-trailer traveling an estimated 65 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone.
The driver of the tractor-trailer — Tyrone Griddle, 48, of St. Matthews, S.C. — was charged with careless and reckless driving and faulty brakes. Griddle was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Health with non-life-threatening injuries. Wilson said Griddle did experience some head trauma.
The driver of the 2014 Chevy was Claud Doty, 53, of Boone. Wilson said Doty was transported to Watauga Medical Center with minor injuries and was later released.
“The defensive driving actions of the operator of the Chevy pickup definitely saved lives,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he’s been unable to identify the driver of the 2010 Lexus. However, the owner of the vehicle is named as a Jerra Unglesbee of Boone. The driver of the 2008 Lexus was Barbara Hall, 67, of Greensboro. Wilson said Hall was transported to Wilkes Regional Hospital with minor injuries; she was treated and released.
All four vehicles were totaled, Wilson said. He said the 2010 Lexus was “demolished.”
Wilson said he’s not aware of any passengers that were in any of the vehicles. He said the investigation into the incident is ongoing but he does not expect to issue any more charges.
Champion Fire, Millers Creek Fire, Wilkes County Rescue and Wilkes County EMS all responded to the scene.