WJTV News Channel 12 - 3 dead after tanker truck fire on I-81 near mile marker 55

3 dead after tanker truck fire on I-81 near mile marker 55 in Smyth County, VA

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Three men are dead after a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline crashed and caught fire after hitting two vehicle on Interstate 81 in Smyth County, VA. The accident happened Wednesday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. near mile marker 54.

Authorities released the name of the third victim who was driving a road maintenance vehicle called a "crash cushion truck". He has been identified as Kenterrious L. Christian, 27, of Taylor, S.C. Christian died en-route to the hospital., but state police say they are still trying to notify his next of kin.  

The driver of the tanker truck, identified as 48-year-old Frank Skeens, Jr., of Castlewood, VA, and 30-year-old Trevor Blankenship, of Lebanon, VA, died at the scene.

Troopers on the scene told us the tanker truck, loaded with 8500 gallons of gas, was traveling in a southbound lane when, according to witnesses, the truck swerved and overcorrected.

Police say that's when the tanker truck hit the first vehicle, exploded and then slammed into a road maintenance vehicle called a "crash cushion truck."

Authorities say, "When the tractor trailer overturned it spilled fuel on the interstate as well as on other vehicles. The two other vehicles involved were doing a mobile lane closure doing construction on the interstate so they were doing construction at the time. The fuel spilled over onto those vehicles and at that time we know now that we have three fatalities."

Police said they are still trying to contact the family of the driver of the crash cushion truck.

Meanwhile, the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 near mile marker 54 are closed at this hour.

VDOT crews were still assessing the condition of the roadway Thursday due to the intensity of the explosion. 

News Channel 11 is following this story. We'll have the latest information as soon as it becomes available.

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