I-40 crash Wednesday leaves hundreds stranded; What to do if you’re stuck in the same situation

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — All lanes are back open after Knoxville Police Department said eastbound and westbound lanes on Interstate 40 would be closed indefinitely due to an accident and vehicle fire on Wednesday night.

We now know that one person died in that crash.

Lanes were reopened and the scene was cleared earlier Thursday morning but a lot of people were in standstill traffic for hours. Others managed to avoid the traffic by taking backroads.

The advice from AAA is to remain calm in this type of situation. Hundreds of people had to do just that as they had nowhere to go for over six hours on the interstate.

“I’m visiting my family,” said Megan Haynes. “So I was trying to go from Kodak at 407 to my mom’s house in Knoxville. She lives right off of John Sevier (highway).”

However, that trip took longer then expected: “We got on at 407 and got off at 402. So that’s only five miles and we were on there from about 9 to 1:30 in the morning.”

Haynes was just one of many people stranded as crews worked to clear a major crash involving a tractor-trailer and another car that shut down both directions of I-40 Wednesday night.

“When I first saw the traffic I didn’t know anything,” explained Haynes. “Since I knew where I was going I didn’t type in Waze or anything like that. So I didn’t know what was going on.”

She said, it wasn’t until she talked to family members that she knew there was a bad wreck ahead.

On the other hand, Courtney Oldendorf was made aware of the traffic before she hit the road.

“My family and I, we were at the Smokies game and right at the end of the game they actually made an announcement that said I-40 was really backed up,” Oldendorf said. “There was a lot of traffic. So, expect some delays.”

Those delays would last over six hours for some.

Oldendorf added, “when we walked out of the stadium, we did notice that there were a lot of cars kind of piled up off that exit. So, we just pulled up our Google Maps and noticed that there was just this solid dark red line going all the way down I-40 and that it was giving us an alternate route.”

Oldendorf said there was still a lot of traffic on the alternate route from everyone else avoiding the interstate, but that it was a lot faster then sitting on I-40.

AAA says if you can’t take an alternate route, make sure you’re prepared to sit and wait.

“Patience is key,” said Megan Cooper, a AAA Spokesperson. “It is frustrating, but at the end of the day that’s a risk of driving, that accidents do happen on the roadway.”

Things that Cooper said may be useful to always have in your car are nonperishable foods and a phone charger.

“If you’re stuck in traffic, go ahead and let somebody know- a family member, a friend, let them know where you are, let them know that you’re okay,” Cooper stated.

An accident is never something you want to see said Courtney Oldendorf: “We were just thankful to avoid it.”

However, it is something you always need to be prepared for when driving.

“Prayers to that family,” said Megan Haynes, “It’s really tragic when accidents do happen.”

Haynes said she knows this could have happened to anyone.

KPD is investigating the crash and the Tennessee Highway Patrol is assisting. Officials will share more updates as they are made available.

Make sure you have to 6 On Your Side App so you can receive push alerts when something like this happens near you.

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