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Dramatic crash leaves commuters stuck for hours - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Dramatic crash leaves commuters stuck for hours

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Monday night Monday night
Tuesday morning Tuesday morning
WINOOSKI, Vt. -

"Right after I hit the Milton exit it was just a standstill," Michael Grubb said.

Grubb couldn't believe his morning commute from St. Albans to his job in South Burlington Tuesday morning took two hours longer than the usual 35 minutes.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "Much, much worse. Horrible."

A chain-reaction crash on Interstate 89 near exit 15 Monday night was the reason why. The accident sent a tractor-trailer careening off the bridge over the Winooski River.

"It's a 50-foot drop. The operator was found alive below by rescue responders," Vt. State Police Lt. Jim Whitcomb said.

Truck driver Dany Gauthier, 37, of Sainte Ann de Sabrevois, Quebec, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The three other drivers were not seriously hurt.

"The initial investigation indicates the weather did play a role in the accident," Whitcomb said.

It was raining heavily, causing water to pool on the road. The Vermont State Police crash reconstruction team is investigating.

Police say the chain-reaction crash should act as a reminder to drivers, as these sudden summer storms are expected all week.

"Motorists need to slow down," Whitcomb said. "Obviously the visibility starts to go away with the heavy rains. There can be pooling water on the roads. That can lead to hydroplaning."

Wind-blown debris can also cause dangers. Police say slow speeds will help.

The crash Monday night initially closed the interstate for hours. VTrans opened one lane of the three-lane road Tuesday as the truck was removed. Crews opened a second lane as they continued to work on the damaged bridge. Officials replaced 200 feet of guardrail, but say the bridge itself is safe for drivers. And Tuesday those drivers got stuck in a traffic nightmare. This is one of the busiest spots in the state.

"It is not easy to reroute traffic during an emergency situation. They did the best they could with the situation they had," said Dave Blackmore of VTrans.

VTrans says rerouting interstate traffic here, including tractor-trailers, could cause dangerous bottlenecks in smaller towns and cities.

"We have got to be careful that we are not getting them on streets where they are going to cause problems or endanger themselves or the traveling public," Blackmore said.

But drivers, like Michael Grubb, say the state needs a better plan.

"I don't think they did anything," Grubb said. "I think they ignored the problem and didn't try to mitigate the issues at all."

VTrans says it will review the closure to decide if it could have done more to help with the traffic trouble, and says it will warn drivers through social media, signage and 511 when they're back to do more concrete work. That will happen between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Police say the tractor-trailer was hauling paper from Quebec to Massachusetts.

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