Heavy fog and icy road conditions on Afton Mountain sent more than two dozen people to area hospitals when a tractor-trailer loaded with mail slid out of control on Interstate 64 early Sunday and was struck by a Fluvanna County-based tour bus.
Virginia State Police said the crash occurred about 4:37 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of I-64. Virginia Department of Transportation officials said the crash was on the downhill grade just past the summit of Afton Mountain.
The smash-up triggered at least seven minor crashes in the eastbound lanes, but no one was injured in those wrecks, according to state police.
The highway was closed for five hours as crews took those injured in the truck-bus crash to hospitals and then cleaned up the wreckage.
The tractor-trailer was traveling east on Interstate 64 when the driver lost control and the tractor-trailer overturned across the road, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a news release.
“A chartered bus traveling in the eastbound lane was unable to avoid the tractor-trailer and struck it,” Geller said. “The impact of the crash split the tractor-trailer in half. The bus ran off the right side of the highway and came to rest against the guardrail.”
The tractor-trailer driver, James Proffitt, 44, of Suffolk, was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The Silver Lining Charters and Tours bus had more than 20 passengers on board at the time of the crash, Geller said.
Police said at least 19 people were injured. UVA officials estimated that they treated at least 20 people from the crash.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital officials reported treating at least five people, and Augusta Health medical center reported treating at least four.
The injuries varied from serious, but not life-threatening, to cuts and bruises, officials said.
The bus was traveling to Charlottesville from Charles Town, W.Va., where the passengers had been attending the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, said Alexander Burruss, owner of the charter bus company in Fluvanna.
Burruss’ brother, Andrew L. Burruss, 62, of Keswick, was driving the bus. He was taken to UVA Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
“He’s coming along,” Alexander Burruss said. “A lot of bruises, a lot of injuries.”
The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team and Trooper L.G. Pingley are investigating the crash. A U.S. postal inspector also responded to the scene because the tractor-trailer was loaded with mail.
Fog remained on Afton Mountain into the afternoon and was expected to return overnight, according to the National Weather Service.
VDOT officials said mountain passes in the area, including the interstate and U.S. 250, U.S. 33, U.S. 211 and U.S. 522, could be fogged in. The fog, mixed with freezing temperatures, can cause ice to form on road surfaces, the weather service and VDOT warned.