The driver of a tractor-trailer was killed Monday in a fiery three-vehicle wreck that closed southbound Interstate 5 near the Pierce-Thurston county line for hours.
The State Patrol said 59-year-old Dale Weaver of Jamestown, Ohio was pronounced dead at the scene.
A second person, the driver of a pickup who caused the collision at Mounts Road when he crossed to the wrong side of the freeway, was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries, according to Washington State Patrol trooper Guy Gill.
Two men in the third vehicle, a box truck that also caught fire, were wearing seat belts and walked away with minor injuries. The men credited the seat belts with saving their lives, Gill said.
All southbound lanes of I-5 were closed in the area of the crash while emergency crews responded to the 10:15 a.m. accident. At one point, the backup extended more than nine miles north to Lakewood. Traffic began moving in the afternoon when a southbound lane was reopened. All lanes of the freeway opened about 8:45 p.m.
The State Patrol gave this account:
A pickup pulling a rental trailer north on I-5 crossed the grass median into the southbound lanes of traffic. The pickup, driven by an adult male, hit the box truck and then the tractor-trailer, both of which caught fire and burned beyond recognition.
“That vehicle is completely burned to the ground,” Gill said of the tractor-trailer. “The tires on the trailer are gone. The steel wheels are on the ground.”
Both fuel tanks came off the semi, and troopers believe one tank, which was ripped to shreds, must have doused the semitrailer with diesel, Gill said.
The rig hadn’t been carrying anything particularly flammable, he added. Its cargo was vehicle realignment equipment.
The pickup sustained severe damage. The front end was missing, and emergency responders cut off the roof. Personal items, including two kayaks, were strewn across the roadway. A motorcycle in the trailer appeared damaged.
The driver of the pickup was wearing a seat belt. Nothing at the scene indicated he was impaired, but investigators don’t know for sure, Gill said. They also were trying to determine whether the man had a medical issue.
Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467
Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.