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August 3, 2021

I-85’s Massive Tractor Trailer Fire

Just before 8:00 am on February 1st 2020, Atlanta saw a fireball crash that would be like nothing anyone had seen before. News and social media videos came rolling in of massive flames and black smoke on Interstate 85 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Gwinnett County. Gwinnett County Police Department responded to a tractor trailer accident and was greeted with a wall of flames and subsequent explosions.

31 year old Emerald Lynn had stopped in the second from the right lane after being involved in a separate minor traffic accident. She was driving a silver Volkswagen when 44 year old Yonus Worku, who was driving a tractor trailer, struck the rear of Lynn’s vehicle. Worku’s big truck flipped multiple times in the air before landing, catching fire, and spilling copious amounts of fuel across the highway. Both Worku and Lynn died in the accident.

Photo Courtesy of WSB-TV Traffic Cam

You may be thinking ‘how did a tractor trailer cause such a massive fire?’ Worku’s tractor trailer was a tanker carrying 8,500 gallons of fuel. This crash caused a massive fuel spill that cause both vehicles to burst into flames and spilled underground seeping into the sewage drains which caused explosions and even more flames reaching through the manhole covers. The fire reached so far that it even caused a water main break and a small brush fire on the side of the road which cause locals to lose power for a short time. The flames burned at such a high intensity that it scorched the pavement of I-85. Officials say it “cooked” the pavement to the point that it was unsafe. The top layer of the pavement has since been scrapped off to help repair the damage. Drivers who were stopped in the traffic jam caused by the inferno recall being told to evacuate their vehicle in case of more explosions and even just fear that the fire may spread because flames of that caliber are difficult to get under control.

Photo Courtesy of Blu Faulkner

First responders stated that it wasn’t until an hour and a half after the crash that the flames were under control. WSB-TV reports the time line of the accident as follows:

  • Just before 8:00 am: The crash occurred
  • 10:30 am: First responders get the flames under control
  • 1:00 pm: The charred truck is removed from the scene
  • 4:00 pm: The 2 lanes are officially reopened

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of both Yonus Worku and Emerald Lynn.

Photo Courtesy of AJC (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.shin@ajc.com)

There are many ways to help protect yourself from big truck wrecks. Our top 4 way to avoid a crash are:

    1. Avoid riding in a tractor trailer’s blind spots

    2. Leave enough follow distance

    3. Be extra cautious during the rain or wind

    4. Avoid distracted driving

To read more helpful tips about avoiding a crash with a big truck, click here.