By Robert Jordan
Dunn Daily Record
DUNN – A massive crash and fire under the Pope Road bridge on Interstate 95 claimed the life of a Florida man Saturday.
At 3:35 p.m., a tractor-trailer was passing under the Pope Road bridge headed southbound when for some unknown reason the driver drifted to the right and struck the pilings under the bridge, according to the N.C. State Highway Patrol. The truck then jackknifed and burst into flames.
The driver of the truck, Richard Llamas, 59, of Florida was transported from the scene by Dunn Emergency Services with massive burns to much of his body. He was then airlifted to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Healthcare in Chapel Hill where he later died of his injuries.
Victor Long of Georgia was traveling behind the truck in a GMC Yukon. When the crash occurred, Long told The Daily Record he had to drive through flames and debris before he could bring his SUV to a halt against the median Jersey barriers.
“All I could see was smoke and flames when I passed the burning truck,” Long said.
Another driver, yet to be identified, was operating a Chevrolet Camaro. That vehicle was not as fortunate as it ended up between the median Jersey barriers and a guard rail.
Trooper C.J. McIntosh of the State Highway Patrol Troop B District 8 is the lead investigator. He confirmed preliminary and updated information on the crash. The driver of the Camaro suffered minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Long was uninjured and trying to determine how he was going to get home to Georgia as his Yukon was heavily damaged in the crash.
All southbound traffic was rerouted from the interstate and through the city of Dunn, leading to traffic congestion on Jonesboro Road, Carolina Drive, Cumberland Street, Pope Street and Clinton Avenue. Officers with Dunn Police Department were tasked with assisting emergency crews at the scene of the wreck, as well as monitoring and maintaining traffic flow throughout the city.
The reconstruction team of the North Carolina Highway Patrol was dispatched to the scene to aid in the investigation.
The interstate was reopened by 8 p.m.