1 dead, 5 injured after crashes on I-81 in Augusta County

Published: Apr. 7, 2020 at 11:15 PM EDT
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UPDATE (10 a.m. April 8):

One person is dead and multiple others injured after a crash that shut down the northbound side of Interstate 81 in southern Augusta County on Tuesday night.

According to Virginia State Police, around 10:45 p.m. on April 7, a 2002 Ford Focus driven by 26-year-old Zaqueo Valenti-Tellez, of Harrisonburg, was heading north on the interstate near mile marker 207.

In the investigating trooper's report on the crash, police say Valenti-Tellez was driving in the left lane. A little ways back, in the right lane, was a 2020 Volvo tractor trailer driven by 55-year-old Robert Odie Scott, from Southaven, Mississippi.

Scott had a passenger, 62-year-old Robert Dennis Gary, from Calhoun City, MS, in the sleeper part of the tractor trailer's cab.

While both Valenti-Tellez and Scott were driving around 70 mph, police say they encountered hail on the roadway from severe storms that passed through the area overnight.

Investigators say Valenti-Tellez lost control and the Ford Focus spun into the right lane, just ahead of the tractor trailer, which T-boned the Focus, sending the car off the right side of the interstate and into a guardrail.

The tractor trailer ran off the left side of the interstate, overturned, and Gary was ejected from the sleeper part of the cab and died at the scene.

A 2019 Chevy Silverado pulling a trailer was driving north in the right lane a little farther back and witnessed the crash. Police say that truck ran off the side of the interstate in an attempt to avoid the crash and hit the guard rail.

Police say Valenti-Tellez and a male passenger who was in the car, as well as Scott, were transported to Augusta Health for treatment of serious injuries. The driver and a juvenile passenger of the Silverado were hospitalized as well. Everyone who was hospitalized was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

Valenti-Tellez has been issued a summons for failure to maintain control.

The Virginia State Police Appomattox Division Crash Reconstruction Team is assisting with investigation of the crash.

The northbound lanes of I-81 at mile marker 207 were shut down for much of Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Traffic was diverted onto Route 11 at Exit 205.

The tractor trailer was operating with Big M Express, according to family members of Robert Gary, who told WHSV he had just begun his career as a trucker and was excited about the adventure.

This article had some initial discrepancies due to differing reports from Virginia State Police sources. The reports have since been reconciled to show the most accurate information on the make of car, charges, and names of all involved.


UPDATE (5:50 a.m.):

All northbound lanes of I-81 near mile marker 207 in Augusta County have reopened following a tractor trailer crash Tuesday night.

The lanes were closed shortly after the crash at 11:00 p.m. and remained closed through most of the early morning.

Drivers were diverted onto Route 11 at the 205 exit. At one point, delays were reported to be about two miles.

It's unknown how many vehicles were involved in the crash or if there were any injuries.

Stay with WHSV as we continue to follow this story.


ORIGINAL STORY (11 p.m. April 7):

VDOT is reporting both northbound lanes of Interstate 81 are closed near mile marker 207 in Augusta County following a tractor trailer crash Tuesday night.

The incident is about two miles north of the Raphine exit. The crash occurred around 11:00 p.m.

Right now, it is unclear how many vehicles are involved or if there are any injuries.

As this story develops, stay with WHSV for the latest updates.

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