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Amber Alert

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Crash shuts down northbound lanes of Interstate 81

A two-truck crash on Interstate 81 early this morning closed the northbound lanes for hours and destroyed both the trailers and one of the cabs. The accident occurred at 1:39 a.m. near mile marker 2, just north of State Line, and the two northbound lanes were not expected to be reopened until around noon.

Joe Kiggans, 68, a company driver for Smithway Motor Xpress, Inc., based in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was heading north from Kingsport, Tenn. to Chambersburg when his rig was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer owned by Morristown Drivers Services Inc., Morristown, Tenn. The cab of that rig burst into flames, but the unidentified driver escaped with minor injuries, police said.

Kiggans' trailer was hauling reams of office paper, while the other truck was hauling 44,000 pounds of jar lids packed in cardboard boxes.

The impact pushed Kiggans' truck up the interstate for nearly a quarter of a mile. Debris from both trucks was spread for several hundred feet across both northbound lanes of I-81.

Kiggans did not seek medical treatment at the scene but said his ribs hurt and he believed he had cracked one or two of them. “I'm going to wait until I get home to see my doctor,” he said.

The unidentified driver was taken to Chambersburg hospital with minor injuries.

Fire in cab

It took fire crews nearly three hours to bring the fire in the cab under control. Fire crews were on the scene until 7 a.m., and the cab was still smoldering at 8.

“We were told a truck had flipped over, but when we got there, they were both upright and both on fire,” Rescue Hose Capt. Mike Luger said. “The striking vehicle burned completely. A small section of the front truck burned a little, but we had that under control within five to 10 minutes,” he added.

Firefighters had to make several cuts in the sides of the trucks to ventilate them and gain access to the loads.

Dave's Truck Repair of Chambersburg and Pennsylvania State Department of Transportation road crews helped rescue personnel unload the trucks.

Both were still being unloaded this morning, and Kiggans said he thinks most of his load is salvageable.

PennDOT crews were called out at 3 a.m. for clean-up and to handle the highway closure. Pennsylvania State Police also responded, and the cause of the accident is under investigation. The highway was slippery from the night's rainfall, but it is unclear whether that was a factor in the accident.


Southbound traffic on I-81 was proceeding normally but northbound traffic was being detoured onto U.S. 11 at the State Line exit. Fire police were on scene directing traffic, but cars and trucks were backed up for nearly two miles, well into Maryland.

PennDOT crews at the scene said at 8 a.m. that the road would be closed for at least another three hours.

Greencastle's Rescue Hose Co. was first on the scene and was assisted by units from Maugansville, Long Meadow and Marion.