MALVERN, Ark. – More than 24 hours after a fiery crash on I-30 killed three and trapped hundreds of others for hours, traffic is just starting to pick back up.
But in surrounding areas and on more rural roads, the congestion from the closures took a toll.
Rockport Fire Chief Damon Dyer was on scene in the moments after the crash, working all 5 accidents that stopped both lanes of I-30 for hours. He said he had never seen anything like it – one minor accident likely caused by the weather turning into a massive, fiery pileup, crushing eight tractor trailers, and taking the lives of three people.
“In 21 years as a firefighter, this was the worst accident I’ve seen,” Dyer exclaimed. “I was really amazed that we only lost three people in it. The potential for 15, 16 people was there.”
A day later, he’s taken only a short break, back out at the Rockport on-ramp assisting ASP and other agencies as they work to deal with more than a day’s work of backup.
“We’re just trying to keep this road open for the residents that need to get through,” Dyer said, as he and two others directed traffic, “and then everybody trying to shortcut through the back roads.”
Just a few miles away in the center of Malvern, police officers and state troopers must direct traffic by hand, trying to keep the flow going as 18-wheelers search for a way around the main route. With the highway closed, it was one of the only ways large trailers could get to their destination, seeking AR highways and alternate routes over the blocked-up highway.
ARDOT crews have since been working overnight and all day trying to clear the road and re-pave the damaged asphalt. Midday Thursday, they opened up the inside lane near the accident to keep traffic moving, and were working on opening up the other side a few hours later.
Shortly after 6 p.m., ARDOT announced that all lanes of traffic on westbound I-30 have been re-opened.