All escape without life-threatening injuries in fiery U.S. 13 Camden crash

CAMDEN — A fiery crash involving a tractor-trailer and three other vehicles on northbound U.S. 13 near the Camden Walmart entrance Wednesday morning frightened onlookers and backed up traffic most of the day.

Six people involved in the incident all escaped without suffering life-threatening injuries, said Master Cpl. Gary Fournier, spokesman for the Delaware State Police.

Calvin L. Anderson, 66, from Gales Ferry, Connecticut, the driver of the tractor trailer, was charged with inattentive driving.

Judging by charred remains of what was left of two of the vehicles involved in the accident, the tractor trailer and a Dodge pickup truck, it appeared to be a miracle no one was seriously injured.

The collision took place at around 9:44 a.m. as Mr. Anderson was driving a 2003 Freightliner Century ST and pulling a trailer northbound in the right lane of U.S. 13, approaching Thomas Harmon Drive, which is the entrance to the Camden Walmart.

Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Master Cpl. Fournier said Mr. Anderson failed to see the traffic in front of him stopping at a red light when he collided into the back of a trailer being pulled by a 1997 Dodge Ram pickup truck.

The initial collision, in turn, caused the pickup truck to move forward and strike the rear of a 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350.

The tractor-trailer then swerved into the left lane and struck the rear of a 2008 Ford Escape and then redirected back to the right lane where it struck the trailer and pickup truck again before coming to a stop and bursting into flames.

Firefighters from the Camden-Wyoming and Dover Fire departments responded to the scene along with state police, as did a Department of Natural Resources Emergency Response Vehicle and several employees of the Delaware Department of Transportation.

The driver of the Dodge pickup, a 29-year-old man from Milford, was taken to Bayhealth Kent General Hospital by Emergency Medical Services where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released.

Flames engulf the front of a truck after an accident on U.S. 13 in Camden Wednesday. This is a still photo from a video posted by Jason E. Brown on Facebook. The video can be viewed at www.facebook.com/DelawareStateNews.

A 50-year-old Felton woman, who was driving the Ford Escape, and her two passengers, were also taken to Kent General by ambulance and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

A 71-year-old woman who was operating the Mercedes-Benz was also taken to Kent General and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Despite the inconveniences, including diversions to secondary roads and delays caused by the crash, most other motorists appeared to be more concerned about the well-being of the accident victims rather than themselves after seeing the damage on the highway.

“It was about 10 o’clock (in the morning) when we went out and we saw this really dark, dark smoke and we saw the flames,” said Beth Hayes, manager of the God’s Way Thrift Store near where the crash happened. “It was very scary because when you can stand in our driveway and see the flames up in the air all the way down there (at the crash site) then those were some big flames.

“It was scary but I’m just wishing that nobody was really injured and I hope there were no fatalities.”

Jimmy Rosario, of Magnolia, echoed Ms. Hayes’ thoughts.

“It was a terrible looking accident,” Mr. Rosario said. “There were flames shooting up into the sky but I was told that everybody was able to get out of their vehicles.

“It truly is a blessing that nobody lost their life considering the seriousness of that accident.”

Mr. Rosario said that flames erupted from the tractor-trailer high into the sky following the collision. The flames melted the lines holding up the traffic signals at the shopping center entrance and caused them to come crashing down.

With both sides of U.S. 13 closed from the Dairy Queen in Camden all the way to Cheddar’s restaurant in south Camden, motorists were forced to divert onto other roads, which caused major backups in the area.

Ivette Cortez was doing her laundry inside the Coin Laundry in Camden. She had an unexpected long day in getting out to wash her clothes.

“It’s really difficult and traffic is really heavy,” said Ms. Cortez, from Felton. “Nobody announced (the traffic problems) and that really caused problems. It took me one hour and a half to get here and it usually takes me 12 minutes. It’s been a trying day.”

The Delaware Department of Transportation announced at 3:45 p.m. that both U.S. 13 northbound lanes were reopened to traffic in the area of the crash.

The southbound left lane on U.S. 13 was also reopened but the right lane remained closed along with the side streets and left turns until midnight for traffic signal reconstruction.

Ms. Hayes said it turned out to be a lost day of business for many in the area.

“Business has been dead all day because nobody could get here,” she said. “If traffic didn’t start moving we were going to close at 3 o’clock, but we waited it out. Hopefully now we will get some customers.

“And hopefully, there won’t be any serious injuries from that accident.”

She said her prayers were answered.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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