Georgia DOT: I-85 fire repairs won’t affect traffic

Two people died in a fiery crash on I-85 near the Jimmy Carter Boulevard exit on Saturday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The fire that shut down I-85 for hours this weekend should not require more repairs that affect traffic, the Georgia Department of Transportation said Monday.

Agency spokesman Scott Higley said GDOT will have to replace a section of barrier wall along the highway where a fuel tanker crashed, causing a large explosion that shut down northbound I-85 for much of Saturday. But Higley said the repairs can be done at night or on weekends.

“That’s not an urgent need,” he said. “That’s not something that’s going to keep travel lanes closed.”

second crash near the same spot Monday morning shut down the northbound lanes for about an hour and a half.

Two people were killed early Saturday in the fiery crash on northbound I-85 near Jimmy Carter Boulevard. According to Gwinnett police, Emerald Lynn, 31, of Norcross, was driving a Volkswagen Passat, which was stopped in the second lane from the right after having been involved in a separate accident.

Yonas Worku, 44, of Snellville, was driving the tanker and collided with Lynn’s car, police said. The tanker, which contained about 8,500 pounds of fuel, flipped multiple times. Both vehicles were quickly engulfed in flames. Lynn and Worku died from injuries sustained in the accident.

The fire scorched the highway and spread to nearby areas along the highway through storm drains. Northbound I-85 was shut completely or partially for about 10 hours.

Higley said GDOT crews repaved a 100-foot by 70-foot stretch of the highway Saturday. Those repairs took about five to six hours, and all lanes reopened shortly at about 6 p.m.

Monday morning's vehicle fire about one mile south of the same location was quickly extinguished. They reopened by 8 a.m. The crash involved two passenger vehicles and a tractor-trailer, said Gwinnett fire spokesman Lt. Justin Wilson.

When fire crews arrived just before 6:30 a.m., one of the passenger vehicles was fully engulfed in flames. One person was assessed by medics at the scene and taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, Wilson said. The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the cause of the crash.

Higley said no additional repairs were needed because of Monday’s blaze. He said the cost of repairs from Saturday’s fire should be minimal because the work was done by GDOT employees.

“It’s tragic that two people died in that crash,” he said. “Fortunately, it was on a weekend day, and not a weekday. That would have been exponentially worse, in terms of traffic.”

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