U.S. 70 was more parking lot than highway for about two hours Tuesday morning in western Havelock after a series of four crashes sent three people to the hospital and caused a massive rush-hour traffic jam.
“Seven o’clock in the morning in that area is always heavily traveled,” Havelock Police Chief G. Wayne Cyrus said of U.S. 70. “There’s always a lot of traffic there.”
That combination of heavy traffic and the first crash may have led to the three others. Cyrus said police continue to investigate the causes of the three other crashes that happened between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. along U.S. 70 between the Slocum Road turn to the back gate at Cherry Point and the Tucker Creek subdivision.
“It’s a matter of being cautious as operators and of being aware of what’s going on around them,” Cyrus said. “There were several factors that were the likely cause of all four of the accidents. You get those who likely want to see what’s going on and they fail to pay attention. Until we get the full report on those other crashes, we just don’t know.”
The first crash happened on U.S. 70 at the Walmart traffic signal shortly before 7 a.m. Cyrus said Jerry Warren, 43, of Pikeville, was driving a tractor trailer east when the light turned yellow. Cyrus said Warren explained that he was not able to stop in time because of the speed and weight of the truck.
Cyrus said Warren collided with Travis Lewis Jr., 52, of New Bern, who was attempting to pull his 2003 Ford from the service road onto U.S. 70. Cyrus said Lewis indicated that his traffic signal had turned green, and a pair of witnesses gave conflicting accounts as to the status of the light at the time of the crash.
Lewis was transported to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern where he was treated and released, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Cyrus said police were investigating and no charges have yet to be filed.
As police worked to clear that wreck, subsequent crashes happened further west on U.S. 70 between Tucker Creek and MacDonald Downs, the most serious of which happened around 7:15 a.m., involved five cars and sent two people to the hospital. Cyrus said another crashed happened at 7:44 a.m., and he described a third crash as somewhat inconsequential because those vehicles were able to be moved off the road.
Police are still investigating those crashes and have not released the names of the drivers involved or the details surrounding them.
All the crashes caused a large backup of rush-hour traffic on U.S. 70 East for about two hours. At one point, vehicles backed up to near Stately Pines.
The service road in front of the Tucker Creek subdivision also backed up as drivers tried to find a quicker way around the delays on the highway. But those who thought they were in for a shorter ride ran into a slew of vehicles driven by parents who were dropping their children off for classes at Tucker Creek Middle School.
All this occurred as Marines and employees at Cherry Point were returning to work after the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend.
Cyrus said the remaining crash investigations would not be completed until Wednesday.