1 injured in tractor-trailer crash

Lime green metal was twisted at odd angles, exposing the engine of a tractor-trailer in the southbound lanes of U.S. 321 in Newton. Broken glass was scattered everywhere. The vehicle's driver dabbed at his head with a white towel, a stream of dark blood trailing from the man's forehead.

The twisted wreckage of the 18-wheeler's cab rested near U.S. 321 mile marker 37 after the vehicle struck another tractor-trailer driven by a student driver.

Darnel Burris, 39, of Misenheimer, was traveling at least 65 mph about 11 a.m. Tuesday when he rear-ended a tractor-trailer driven by student driver John Hall, 50, of Dallas, said Trooper B.K. Perkins, with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Hall and Burris were traveling in the right lanes of U.S. 321 northbound when Hall slowed his vehicle. Perkins said Burris, who was traveling behind Hall, slammed on his brakes to avoid a collision and attempted to merge into the left-hand lane.

"He hit the brakes hard enough to leave tire impressions," Perkins said.

Burris couldn't avoid striking the left rear of Hall's trailer, sending Hall into the grassy median, through the cables dividing the four-lane road and into the southbound side of U.S. 321. Burris' tractor-trailer traveled 448 feet from the point of impact with Hall's vehicle until it came to rest in the southbound lane, facing oncoming traffic, Perkins said.

Cables from the median wrapped around Burris' vehicle and officials from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the NCSHP worked to disentangle the truck from the cables before it could be towed.

The tractor-trailer was based in Gold Hill and was carrying about 80,000 pounds of sand, Perkins said. He didn't know the destination of the vehicle.

Hall is a student with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute's Truck Driver Training program. The vehicle's trailer was buckled in from the impact of Burris' vehicle, and Perkins said it sustained "extensive damage" in the crash. The trailer is likely totaled, but the pulling unit didn't appear to have any exterior damage.

The cab of Burris' vehicle rotated about 90 degrees to the right from the force of the crash. Perkins said the cab is totaled.

Despite the severity of the wreckage of Burris' vehicle, Burris sustained only minor injuries in the crash. Perkins said Burris suffered a head laceration and was treated on the scene for his injuries.

Burris is charged with reckless driving. NCSHP Trooper K.E. Moore told The O-N-E on the scene of the crash that speed, alcohol or drugs don't appear to be factors in the crash.

One lane of both northbound and southbound U.S. 321 was closed while officials investigated the crash and cleared the wreckage. Moore said traffic was backed up for about a mile and a half while southbound vehicles merged into the right-hand lane to avoid Burris' vehicle, which remained in the left-hand, southbound lane.

The tractor-trailer crash on U.S. 321 happened minutes after a tractor-trailer overturned on Startown Road near Startown Elementary.

The NCDOT reported the overturned vehicle had a "high impact" on traffic patterns, and officials were at the scene to direct motorists around the crash.

The scene of the crash was cleared Tuesday by noon.