A fiery crash between a 18-wheeler and a pickup hauling a trailer on Interstate 55 just north of Summit Monday evening killed the trucker and closed down the interstate through early Tuesday morning.

The 6:41 p.m. collision in the southbound lanes near mile marker 23 between Summit and the Dixie Springs exits sent the rig careening into the median.

The 18-wheeler flipped upside down and caught fire.

A law enforcement official at the scene said the driver did not make it out of the cab, which was charred and flattened beyond recognition.

Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry said the driver was “unidentifiable.”

While the driver of the semi lost his life in the crash, it appears his final actions prevented further tragedy.

Fortenberry said the wreck occurred when the rig apparently bumped the corner of a utility trailer being towed by a southbound pickup truck. In an attempt to avoid an even more catastrophic accident, he added, the trucker veered off into the median.

Fortenberry said the driver of the pickup, whose name was not released, escaped the accident without injury.

The rig, which was hauling a flatbed trailer loaded with lumber, plowed through trees down a steep embankment in the median, flipped and scattered boards along the side of the highway.

The accident first shut down the southbound lanes of the interstate, with troopers diverting traffic off of the southbound lanes at the Johnston Station-Lake Dixie Springs exit and onto Highway 51.

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials later reported that the cleanup also had the northbound lanes of the interstate blocked.

MDOT officials reported just after 6 a.m. that the accident had been cleared.

Firefighters from Summit and McComb responded to the wreck, which also caused a woods fire in the heavily forested interstate median.

The accident was the first incident that made for a busy night for firefighters, who were called to a house fire on Oak Street in Summit just as they managed to get the fire sparked by the wreck under control. 

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