Trucker who spilled 50,000 pounds of potatoes on I-77 told troopers he fell asleep

I-77 potato truck wreck

A truckload of potatoes was spilled Friday on I-77 at exit 9.
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A truckload of potatoes was spilled Friday on I-77 at exit 9.

Interstate 77 southbound was closed for hours at the Morehead Street exit Friday morning after a tractor-trailer wrecked and spilled 50,000 pounds of potatoes.

The driver told troopers he fell asleep, said John Burgin of the State Highway Patrol.

The driver, who is from Utah, said he’d heard of truckers being arrested in North Carolina for pulling roadside to sleep. So he decided to try to make it through the state, he told troopers who responded to the wreck, Burgin said.

The truck hit a barrier wall and overturned about 2 a.m. near John Belk Freeway, I-277, exit 9.

The truck was destroyed, Burgin said, although the driver had few if any injuries.

Fuel spilled onto the interstate and onto most of the potatoes, Burgin said. The damaged potatoes were scheduled to be disposed of at Waste Connections in Wadesboro, he said.

Cleanup crews at the scene said a few hundred pounds of potatoes had fallen into grass near an exit ramp, were not contaminated and would be donated to a food gleaning group.

Traffic backed up to the Brookshire Freeway exit. One lane finally reopened shortly before 8 a.m. and a second lane about 8:30 a.m.

The driver will likely be charged with a minor traffic offense, such as failure to maintain control of a vehicle, that can be paid off through the mail, Burgin said.

Staff Photographer John Simmons contributed

Joe Marusak: 704-987-3670, @jmarusak

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