The driver of a sport utility vehicle that was traveling the wrong direction on Interstate 81 died in a fiery crash with a tractor-trailer near the Inwood, W.Va., exit early Tuesday, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office said.
Capt. D.S. Richmond said both the SUV, a Ford Explorer, and the tractor-trailer rig burst into flames as a result of the impact.
Authorities did not immediately have an identity of the driver of the SUV, who was badly burned, Richmond said.
He said authorities probably would have to use dental records to confirm identification.
“We haven’t even determined whether (the driver of the SUV) was male or female — everything was burned up,” Richmond said Tuesday morning.
Deputies said Johnny Keller, the driver of the tractor-trailer, was not hurt. Keller’s passenger, Heidi Souza, suffered minor injuries.
The ages and addresses of Keller and Souza were not provided by authorities.
Richmond said the accident happened at about 2 a.m. Tuesday near the 5-mile marker, where the southbound 2005 Explorer collided with the tractor-trailer that was traveling in the northbound lanes.
He said both vehicles were engulfed in flames when officers arrived.
The Explorer’s driver, who was trapped inside the vehicle, probably died instantly, Richmond said. Keller and Souza were able to free themselves from the tractor-trailer.
Richmond said the body of the person who was driving the Explorer would be taken to Charleston, W.Va., or Morgantown, W.Va., for an autopsy.
The roadway was closed for about 6 1/2 hours while rescue workers responded to the scene.
Anyone who witnessed the accident may call the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office at 304-267-7000.