OAKWOOD -- Speed may have been a factor in a fatal tractor-trailer wreck that shut down Interstate 985 early Wednesday at the Plainview Road overpass in South Hall County.
Brian Zegarzewski, 49, of Fletcher, N.C., was the truck driver who died, according to Georgia State Patrol Trooper Jonathan Folendore. Zegarsewski worked for Carolina Ready Mix and Builder Supply, according to the state patrol.
A witness reported being passed south of the accident scene by the truck. The witness said he was going about 75 mph when he was passed; the speed limit is 70 mph.
“He felt like the truck was speeding because the truck passed him,” said State Patrol Capt. Allen Marlowe, Troop B commander.
“We’re looking at all different angles,” he said as to cause.
The driver, hauling a full load of dry concrete, was traveling north on I-985, when, “for unknown reasons … left the roadway, hit both guardrails (lining the road) and eventually hit one of the support columns” on the overpass, Marlowe said.
Concrete spilled across the northbound lanes, and the truck driver was thrown from the vehicle, Marlowe said.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office reports the driver was dead when they arrived.
The wreck, occurring about 6 a.m., initially shut down southbound and northbound lanes between Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch and Exit 17 in Oakwood — a 5-mile stretch.
Traffic was rerouted on roads around the area, including Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, Thurmon Tanner Parkway and Hog Mountain Road, creating a rush-hour mess.
Hall County firefighters found the truck “50 percent involved with fire” upon arrival.
Chris Avenue resident Curtis Pirkle said the crash sounded like a bomb went off and shook his whole house, awakening his family.
Helicopters were soon flying around, and he left the house to find out what was going on, discovering the truck on fire, Pirkle said.
Crews eventually were able to put out the fire and control a fuel leak, according to the fire department.
Also responding to the scene were Georgia Department of Transportation inspectors.
Oakwood Public Works Supervisor Jason Spencer said the bridge shifted and he showed a seam in the structure that had separated about an inch.
I-985’s southbound lanes and Plainview Road reopened later in the morning. One northbound lane reopened about noon.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Nicole Bailes said an overturned box truck near Exit 8 and multiple fender benders caused additional problems earlier this morning.
“It has become such a traffic nightmare this morning,” she said.
The wreck also delayed school buses in the West Hall, Johnson and Flowery Branch clusters, according to Hall County Schools.
Times staff members Jeff Gill, Shannon Casas and Clark Leonard contributed to this report.