BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Those Interstate 77 travelers who found themselves in the northbound East River Mountain Tunnel Friday afternoon when a truck caught on fire are expressing amazement that no one was killed or seriously injured.
Several of them have shared their stories at wvmetronews.com.
“I was in the left lane and was not able to pass the truck in the tunnel,” one woman wrote. “I was stuck for a few minutes which seemed extremely longer. I saw the flames and pieces falling down. All of these cars behind me stopped and no place to go.”
The truck caught fire in the tunnel at the West Virginia-Virginia state line at around 3 p.m. Friday. Police closed both the north and southbound lanes as emergency crews moved in. The southbound side of the tunnel was reopened to I-77 traffic at 10 p.m. The Virginia Department of Transportation reopened the slow lane in the northbound tunnel at around 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the second northbound lane by 8 p.m. Saturday.
Another wvmetronews.com reader described being inside the tunnel when the truck burst into flames.
“The flames were shooting out which was extremely scary. I floored the gas and went past the truck as the tunnel filled with smoke. We got out along with 2 or 3 cars behind us,” the reader wrote.
Many are praising the tunnel workers for their quick response in helping getting the truck driver out and beginning the evacuation process.
“Luckily the truck driver got out safely as well as all the drivers thanks to the quick response response of the tunnel workers,” a motorist shared. “I heard the loud explosion that shook the tunnel and my car. Once I got out I thanked God we were safe. The scariest thing I’ve experienced.”