At least two tractor-trailers crashed at mile marker 7 around around 4:55 p.m. Tuesday, blocking all northbound lanes. Troopers described the crash as being "with injuries," but it is not known how many were injured or how bad the injuries were.
"This is the worst I've ever seen it," said Victor Allen of Allen's Garage. "I've never seen cars on top of one another."
The southbound lanes are still closed from the Highway 58 exit in Hillsville all the way to near the North Carolina Border after three crashes around midday Tuesday. Officials said the southbound lanes are expected to be reopened by 9 p.m. Tuesday at the earliest.
Crews continue to clean up the three earlier crashes that involved nearly 50 vehicles. The first accident occurred around 11:40 a.m. Tuesday at mile marker with two others occurring minutes apart at mile markers 4 and 7. Half of the vehicles involved were tractor-trailers.
Troopers said vehicles are literally stacked on top of one another, and tractor-trailers are jackknifed or overturned onto their sides.
The southbound lanes will be closed until at least 9 p.m. Tuesday, Virginia State Police troopers said. Traffic is being detoured onto Highway 58 East and Highway 52 South. Troopers have also closed the Interstate 81 off-ramps to southbound I-77 in Wytheville to keep traffic from heavily backing up on the detour route.
Northbound I-77 traffic is being diverted to Interstate 74 East and U.S. 52 North to get back on the interstate at Fancy Gap.
Officials said two were killed, and 16 were injured, four of them critically. The injured were transported to hospitals in both Virginia and North Carolina. The two dead were identified as Robert C. Weist, 57, of Gratz, Pa., and Marvin D. Miller, 58, of Stanfield, N.C. Both died at the scene.
Officials said heavy fog is being blamed for the accidents. Reports from the field describe visibility as being as little as 10 feet at times.