ROCKINGHAM — The driver of a logging truck died Thursday when the cab caught fire after running off the road and hitting a tree.
According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, the vehicle was travelling northbound on U.S. 220 when it veered off of the highway apparently went airborne, clipping a tree in mid-air which caused the truck to jackknife. It then hit another tree and exploded, blackening the trunk up to about 30 feet.
First Sgt. B.G. Jones said there was no sign that the driver applied the brakes which suggested that there was a medical issue, but added troopers wouldn’t know for sure until an autopsy is completed. Investigators had not yet identified the driver nor determined what company he worked for by press time.
Jones concluded the truck had been airborne when it first collided with the tree because of a large abrasion about five feet up. About 10 yards back from that impact was a large divot in a shallow ditch where the truck apparently launched from.
The wreck occurred about 80 yards down the road from Snead Avenue, where traffic was diverted.
The truck was not carrying a load at the time of the crash.
Nearby residents heard explosions and saw thick plumes of black smoke billowing out of the mangled cab.
Darlene Brown, on whose property the wreck occurred, said there were “two booms and shake” of her house at around 3:15 p.m. Jason Poston, who was in the house with Brown, said there was a minute or two between the “booms.”
“I was inside watching T.V. when I head a boom and I said, ‘What was that?’” said Bob Spears, who lives on the other side of the highway.
U.S. 220 was still blocked off at of 7:30 p.m. Thursday night as crews continued to clean up, according to Capt. J.R. McLaughlin with the Northside Volunteer Fire Department.
Northside was the first department on the scene, with the Rockingham Fire Department, Rockingham Rescue and FirstHealth EMS also responding to the call.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]