FLAG POND –– A South Carolina tractor-trailer driver was killed Wednesday morning when his rig overturned on Interstate 26 in Unicoi County.
Robert Thomas Duncan, 58, from Holly Hill, S.C., ran off the right side of the westbound lanes of I-26 near mile marker 51 about 8:50 a.m. Wednesday while in a curve, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report.
“What appears to have happened is the truck was traveling too fast for the curve,” said THP Trooper Joe Lunceford, who worked the crash.
The posted speed limit for that section of I-26 is 50 mph. Duncan’s speed was not reported.
It appeared Duncan lost control. Skid marks were visible on the asphalt hundreds of feet before the point where the truck hit the guardrail. It looked as though the cab and trailer separated shortly after hitting the guardrail. Lunceford said the cab and trailer rolled several times, knocking down about 350 feet of the guardrail. The cab and trailer landed at least 50 feet apart.
The passenger’s side of the cab was crushed and the hood was ripped off, revealing the engine. The cab came to rest on the driver’s side on top of the guardrail. Some items from the cab were strewn about the road and hillside, including a Bible that was ripped in half. One of those halves was sitting on one of the overturned guardrail posts, its pages flapping in the breeze.
Though it was near the road, it was about noon before emergency personnel could get to Duncan’s body to remove it from the destroyed cab. Two large wreckers were sent to the scene to haul away the cab. The trailer may be too heavy to move without unloading its contents or using a crane, emergency workers said.
No other vehicle was involved in the crash.
The crash happened a few miles from the North Carolina border, where the terrain is mountainous and the road is curvy. Runaway truck ramps are located periodically along this stretch of I-26.
Duncan owned his truck but was driving for a company, Lunceford said. It appeared he was hauling some kind of wood flooring, based on what could be seen through a hole in the trailer made by a mangled section of guard rail lodged in the front panel.
The trailer was actually a box on a frame. The box and frame separated at some point in the impact, too.
Lunceford said this was the first fatality worked by the THP in several years in Unicoi County.
“We do enforce and patrol very regularly in this area to keep this kind of stuff down,” he said.