Firefighters battle the blaze that erupted after two trucks collided on U.S. Route 23 on Thursday in Norton. (Norton P.D. photo)
NORTON — Two trucks overturned and one caught fire on U.S. Route 23 on Thursday, closing the southbound lanes of the highway for several hours.
Police said the mishap in the southbound lanes of U.S. 23 at the on ramp of the J.I. Burton High School exit of Norton occurred at about 10:30 a.m. An oil/water mixture spilled onto the pavement from one of the rigs and caught fire, sending a thick spume of black smoke into the air.
The fire was extinguished by the Norton Volunteer Fire Department but continued to affect traffic in the northbound lanes for a time.
The overturned trucks blocked both southbound lanes and prompted the rerouting of southbound traffic for several hours onto Business/Alternate U.S. 23 through Norton to Appalachia on through Big Stone Gap to reconnect to U.S. 23 south. The northbound lanes, initially shut down by the crash, were reopened to traffic once the fire was extinguished and the fire situation neutralized.
Norton Police Chief James Lane said a Southwest Tool Rental flatbed truck driven by Jess Leichtenberg, 35, of Jonesville, got tangled with a Bristol, Tenn.-based Necessary Trucking rig driven by James Welch, 46, of Abingdon. Southwest Tour Rental is located in Norton.
Lane said it appeared a front tire on the truck driven by Welch blew out, causing his truck to collide with the one driven by Leichtenberg. The rear ends of the trucks interlocked upon impact and both rigs flipped.
Welch's truck caught fire. Lane said the spill involved contact water, which he said he was told was a mixture of oil and water.
Leichtenberg was injured and admitted to a local hospital. Lane said he did not know the extent of the injuries. No charges were filed by the investigating officer and Lane said he did not expect there would be.
(Photos courtesy of Mike Still and Norton Police Department.)