11:40 a.m.: Interstate 81 has now reopened. For more, click here.
Sgt. Rob Carpentieri, the spokesman for the Virginia State Police, is on site at mile marker 167 near Buchanan where six vehicles have been involved in an accident. The series of crashes began when allegedly a towed white SUV broke loose from a red SUV and went into the traffic in the southbound area. A tractor trailer jackknifed and the effect on traffic flow resulted in more vehicle involvement in the crash scene. The accident happened early this morning at dawn around 5:30 a.m.and closed both lanes of southbound traffic.
Three tractor trailers were involved as well as two SUVs and a car. One person, John Smith, 36, hometown unknown, was taken to Roanoke Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries said Carpentieri. No word on the condition or identity of the victim. State Police say Interstate 81 southbound near Buchanan was closed for two hours early this morning. According to Carpentieri, traffic is still moving slowly as HAZmat crews have responded to a diesel fuel spill from one of the tractor trailers.
State Police are still investigating. Charges have been filed against the driver of the red Ford Explorer towing the white SUV. Mahobala-Rankishadrack Nasemola, 25 of Plainfield, N.J. has been charged with operating with no valid operator’s license and reckless driving.
In recent years, the State Police count of car crashes in the area between Exit 162 and Milemarker 176 has made the area one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the state with an average of about 76 crashes per year resulting $1,000 or more in property damage. VDOT has installed guardrails in the median in the past five years to counter accidents on one side of I-81 from carrying over into the opposing lanes north or south bound.
Last year the State Police said the number one cause of crashes in the area was driving too fast for the road conditions.