A tractor-trailer northbound on Interstate 81 crashed Thursday just short of mile marker 175. The driver, Bryan Minton, of North Wilkesboro, N.C., said he was uninjured. He said he was coming around a curve, unable to see that the traffic ahead of him was backed up, and swerved off the road to avoid hitting the stopped vehicles. Daniel Lin | The Roanoke Times
We published this photo and the attached cutline on page 11 of the June 29, 2012, news section under the headline: “Driver lived to tell about it.” We had few other details about the crash or the circumstances leading up to it until an email from Charles D. Price was sent to the newsroom last week.
Price, of Stuarts Draft, was driving on Interstate 81 when the crash happened and he wrote us to thank the photographer, intern Daniel Lin, for taking the photo because it provided him just enough information to identify “a hero.”
”I do not know Mr. Minton personally, but he is a hero in my eyes. A special thanks needs to go to Mr. Daniel Lin for covering the accident on I-81,” Price wrote. “Without the story being published in the Roanoke Times, we would have never known who wrecked and what his fate was. Thanks to Mr. Lin we were able to contact and thank Mr. Minton for what he did that day at mile marker 174.”
The email included a dramatic recounting of what Price saw and felt from his vehicle. It was orginally sent to the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce in an effort to get recognition Minton recogntion for his action that day. Here’s what he wrote:
This is a story about courage, professionalism, a hero and thankfulness.
My wife, grand-daughter and I had been to Pigeon Forge, TN. Vacationing the week of June 25, 2012. We left mid morning on the 28th to head home in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, which is about a five to six hour drive.
We were driving North on I-81 making pretty good time until we got close to Roanoke, Virginia traffic had slowed to a crawl; it was stop and go for about an hour. Traffic picked up and started to move at the normal speed limit; 65-70 mph.
We were coming down a mountain pass just south of Lexington, Virginia and as we started into a curve, traffic was at a dead stop in both lanes ahead of us. I really had to slam on the brakes to stop and I had moved over to the passing lane.
I immediately looked in to my rear view mirror and all I could say was; “Oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God!” There was a tractor trailer no more than 250 feet behind us, blue smoke rolling off of the tires, the trailer was starting to jackknife with the trailer coming around to the passing lane.
The cab had started to come up off of the road, the left front side of the cab tires had come twelve to eighteen inches off of the road.
As my wife is yelling What? she starts looking around. Our eight year old granddaughter was asleep in the back seat. As I stated we were in the passing lane. There were other cars in front of us and a tractor trailer right beside us; directly in front of him there was another eighteen wheeler.
All of this happened in a matter of seconds; I glanced at my wife without saying a word and glanced back into the rear view mirror. I lost site of the tractor trailer and then we heard the most awful sound. The noise from the impact had woke up our grand daughter and by this time my wife had unbuckled her seat belt and was up on her knees trying to look back to see where the truck had gone. Then all of a sudden we see glass, mirrors, lights, and other debris flying through the air and all around us. We were looking under the trailer that was beside us trying to see where it went. We see the tractor come to a sudden stop. I honestly did not know exactly what I was seeing; my first thought was that the cab had sheered off or if the trailer had smashed the cab. The traffic was beginning to move and I started going forward. My wife is saying we need to stop! The two gentlemen who were driving the trucks beside of us had pulled over and was running back to the accident. At this particular point, I knew I needed to keep moving for the safety of my family and myself because I knew that there were other tractor trailers coming down off of this mountain. My wife is on the phone trying to call 911, but we were in a dead zone. I see the mile marker number of 174.4 and my wife called the Augusta County Sheriffs Department and they patched her through to 911. She proceeded to give the dispatcher the information and I felt like we had done everything that we could do.
The traffic starts to slow down again and we see a pickup truck with a utility trailer hauling a load of mulch. The mulch was on fire and I am assuming that this is what had caused the traffic to back up and come to a stop. A State Trooper was on the scene but there were no flairs or any type of warning. We were only about forty-five minutes away from home and my wife looked at me and said “He did not make it, did he?” I just shook my head no. I said that who ever was driving that truck had to be an older experienced professional driver. He knew what he had to do to prevent more fatalities. It had to be a split second decision for him to take that rig off the road and he probably did not even think of what his fate would be. It was a quiet ride the rest of the way home.
Once we got home, we continued to talk about the wreck that we had witnessed and realized that we were just thankful to be alive. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. My wife got on the computer and pulled up the VDOT road report for I-81 and read an accident that happened at mile marker 188. There were two fatalities listed and we knew that the miracle we witnessed was at mile marker 174.3. I went out the next day and picked up a Roanoke Times Newspaper. I got home and sat down to look through the paper and I was never so happy in my life to see the picture of this tractor trailer lying on its side. The caption read “Driver Lived to Tell About It.” Bryan Minton of North Wilkesboro, N.C. said he was coming around a curve unable to see the traffic ahead of him was backed up and swerved off the road to avoid hitting the stopped vehicles. After looking at the picture, I realized then what I had seen. It was the undercarriage of the tractor, and the trailer had slid down the embankment so we could not see it from the road.
I would like to thank Mr. Daniel Lin with the Roanoke Times; I am grateful to him and the news staff for finding this article news worthy and printing it in the paper. I found out who my hero was and where he was from. I was most thankful to see that he escaped the wreckage with no injuries. We were just so excited that my wife and I had decided to reach out to Mr. Minton and just let him know how grateful we were. My wife went online, searched for his address and phone number. I called the number and left a message not knowing if I had the right Bryan Minton or not. I said on the message “I don’t know if you are the truck driver on I 81 Northbound that wrecked Thursday afternoon but if you are, I want you to know that you are a hero to my family and me!” Later that after noon I called back and was able to speak with his wife. I shared my gratitude with her and told her if there was anything I could do or if he needed me to talk to anybody about what I witnessed; I would be willing to help him out.
On Sunday morning around 9:00 a.m. I get a call from Daniel Payne of Daniel Payne Trucking Company. This is Mr. Minton’s employer so again I relayed the story and let him know that I would be willing to help him out, if there was anything that I could do to let me know. His insurance company; Carolina Causality contacted me a few days later. The representative that I spoke with was Caye Tilton and I told her that I am totally convinced in my heart I know that there would have been a number of fatalities on the road that day and the first three would have been my granddaughter, my wife and I. At this time I let her know that my intentions were to contact the Chamber of Commerce in North Wilkesboro, N.C., she called me back about a week later expressing how her management team at Carolina Causality were deeply touched by this story and if they could do anything to help get Mr. Minton the recognition he deserves to let them know. There are so many people who complain about I-81 and the tractor trailer traffic, but they do not know about the defensive driving Mr. Minton used on June 28, 2012 that saved my family and me.
I will be eternally grateful to Mr. Minton for what he did that day. If it had not been for Bryan Minton’s quick reaction and skill, I would not be sharing this story.
Thank you in advance for taking time to read what we witnessed, and to let Mr. Minton know that he really did do a great job!
Chuck and Brenda Price
Jadyn Taylor Wood