Driver dies in I-85 tractor-trailer wreck

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — A 58-year-old UPS driver who died in a crash that shut down Interstate 85 this morning had been driving for UPS Freight for more than 25 years.
Garry Wilkerson, of Chesterfield, Va., was killed after he was ejected from his tractor-trailer about 1:20 a.m., the N.C. State Highway Patrol said.
UPS Freight Spokesman Ira Rosenfeld said Wilkerson was completing the first part of a routine trip from Richmond to Charlotte. After arriving, he was set to return with a shipment to Richmond.
“He’s been with overnight transportation and UPS Freight for over 25 years,” Rosenfeld said.
Wilkerson was killed when his truck ran off the left side of I-85 South and struck a bridge that intersects with McCanless Road.
The 58-year-old was pulling two trailers, one of which fell to McCanless Road. The cab and the other trailer remained on I-85.
Highway Patrol Sgt. K.L. Blakley said Wilkerson was thrown from the cab. Blakley said the truck driver did not appear to be wearing a seatbelt.
Rosenfeld said the trailers appeared to be carrying mainly cigarettes.
Fire officials had McCanless Road closed this morning but were working to get it open before school lets out this afternoon.
McCanless Road is a major thoroughfare for nearby E. Hanford Dole Elementary School on Choate Road.
Rosenfeld said several other UPS trucks were near Wilkerson’s truck when the crash happened, but the trucks were not part of a convoy.
“Mr. Wilkerson was attempting to pass one of the other cars when suddenly he hit the guard rail,” Rosenfeld said. “Whether it was a driver error or mechanical error, we don’t know.”
Rosenfeld said he has heard reports that Wilkerson’s front left tire blew, causing him to hit the bridge, but that he hadn’t been able to confirm that.
He said Wilkerson was starting the first part of his trip and that he did not believe fatigue was a factor in the crash.
Blakley said the Highway Patrol shut down I-85 and detoured drivers onto U.S. 29 at exit 79. Two southbound lanes are now open.
The Highway Patrol is continuing to investigate the wreck.