A 60-year-old man who crashed a tractor-trailer Tuesday afternoon on northbound Interstate 5 near Tacoma fell asleep at the wheel and collided with a crash cushion, according to the Washington State Patrol. The vehicle rolled and caught fire.
Troopers said the driver was seriously injured in the wreck, which reduced traffic on the interstate to one lane near Port of Tacoma Road and partially blocked the freeway for more than 11 hours. Trooper Robert Reyer said the man was transported to Harborview Medical Center.
Investigators found the man was driving in the right lane, and he was seen slowly drifting to the right just before he wrecked, Reyer said. The trooper said a good Samaritan saw the crash, got out of his vehicle and used a fire extinguisher he had on hand to put out flames in the tractor-trailer’s cab. The man also helped pull the driver out. Reyer said the trailer had been carrying a full load of produce stacked on pallets.
It’s not yet clear whether the driver will face an infraction for the wreck. Reyer said typically when a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they can be cited for negligent driving. He said investigators were working to determine who the man had been driving for. Identifying markings on the vehicle were reportedly destroyed in the fire.
Several tractor-trailer wrecks have occurred in the South Sound in the last few weeks, but Reyer said troopers so far haven’t seen any pattern connecting them. Referring to a crash involving a wrong-way driver in Lakewood, Tuesday’s collision and a rollover wreck in Lacey, Reyer said all had different causes.