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Updated: 3:16 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011 | Posted: 9:25 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011

Police continue to investigate fatal wrong-way wreck


I-285 wreck shows lack of arterial roads photo
John Spink
Emergency crews work to clear the fatal crash on the northern edge of I-285 between Ashford Dunwoody and Chamblee Dunwoody roads on Tuesday morning.
Police continue to investigate fatal wrong-way wreck photo
Jacob Blackmore was killed in a wreck on I-285.

By Mike Morris

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Police continued to investigate Wednesday what caused a man to drive the wrong way on I-285 and crash into a tanker truck early Tuesday morning.

The wreck, which killed the wrong-way driver, closed eastbound lanes of I-285 in DeKalb County for some 10 hours Tuesday, creating a huge traffic jam on the northside Perimeter.

Dunwoody police spokesman Mike Carlson said that 19-year-old Jacob Blackmore of Marietta was driving westbound in the eastbound lanes and struck the tanker truck, which was loaded with margarine.

Both vehicles caught fire, and it was several hours before crews were able to douse the burning truck. The interstate was reopened at 10:15 a.m.

Blackmore died at the scene, Carlson said. The truck driver, 57-year-old Rory Stewart, was not injured.

Toxicology tests on Blackmore are pending, Carlson said.

Blackmore was a 2010 graduate of Pope High School in east Cobb. A Facebook page has been set up where friends can share their memories of Blackmore.

Randy Hinderliter told Channel 2 Action News that he heard a loud explosion as he passed the truck.

"It was horrible. It sounded like a stick of dynamite going off," Hinderliter told Channel 2.

The eastbound jam stretched about six miles to beyond Riverside Drive. Most westbound lanes of I-285 remained open, but traffic was sluggish as motorists slowed to look at the emergency vehicles. The westbound jam stretched beyond Spaghetti Junction to LaVista Road, also a distance of about six miles.

With I-285 jammed in both directions, traffic backed up on other major routes into Atlanta from the north, including Ga. 400, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and I-85, as well as on surface streets across the northside.

Rebecca Bowen, a copy editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, had a close encounter with the wrong-way driver moments before the deadly crash.

Bowen said she had just gotten onto I-285 eastbound at Ashford Dunwoody Road, and was between Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard when "I looked up and I saw a pair of headlights coming toward me, and I was kind of stunned for a moment."

Bowen said she was in the second lane from the left -- the same lane as the wrong-way driver.

"I started to slow down, and he kept coming," said Bowen, who said she couldn't move into the lane to her right because of other traffic.

"He was about a few hundred feet in front of me and he steered to the right into the innermost lane," Bowen said.

She said she honked her horn as the other driver went by on her left, "and slowed down to catch my breath and my bearings."

Bowen said the wrong-way driver kept going after passing her.

"It's not like he slowed down when he was coming toward me; he just went into the other lane and went on by," she said. A short distance later, the car slammed into the truck.

The wreck kept drivers like Vincent Fowler, 64, stuck on I-285 all night. Fowler delivered fuel to a QT on Mansell Road in Roswell about midnight and was driving his gas tanker back to Keystone Petroleum Transport in Doraville when he stopped moving. He alternated between talking to his dispatchers and sleeping.

"You just have to stay calm and you'll get by," said the Decatur man, whose shift started at 4 p.m. Monday. "You've got to have a great attitude because there's nothing you can do about it except wait it out."

Authorities finally opened one eastbound lane before 7 a.m. to free some of the cars and trucks that had been stuck behind the wreck for hours.

DeKalb firefighters worked throughout the night to extinguish the flames. Crews used a bulldozer to scoop up the charred remnants of the truck and its contents.

"Basically, margarine is oil and it burns quite well," said DOT spokesman Mark McKinnon.

McKinnon said hazmat teams were on the scene to keep the mixture of 15,000 gallons of water from the firehoses and oil from the burned margarine from getting into the drainage system.

"Margarine can make the road very slick, so we had to bring sand out to soak up some of that margarine and get some traction for motorists once we open some lanes," McKinnon said.

Anyone with information about the accident is asked to contact Sgt. Jason Dove of the Dunwoody police at 678-382-6910.

-- Staff writer Larry Hartstein and staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.

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