Former Cornelius Fire Chief speaks out against I-77 construction

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A retired fire chief from Cornelius says if the construction continues as planned, we'll keep seeing more accidents on the interstate. His top concern is getting first responders to the scene in time.

 

"That's one I don't think I'll ever forget," said Jim Barbee, who was the Cornelius Fire Chief for nearly a decade.

 

Barbee served with the fire service for twenty years. He says he's seen things on I-77 that rival a war zone.

One accident in particular stays with him.

 

"Somebody was trying to merge onto the interstate and couldn't and got rear-ended and the car burst into flames."

 

The former chief says the first truck sent to the scene got stuck in heavy traffic. He was on the second truck dispatched.

 

"We actually stopped on the northbound lane and pulled hand lines off the truck across the median to fight the fire because the other company couldn't get there."

 

He says it was too late.

 

"Had they been able to access it a little better, they might have been able to fight the fire better and maybe save the person."

 

In full disclosure, he says the deadly accident happened about 12 years ago at exit 30 on I-77 southbound.

But - he says - accidents are up 35 percent since construction began between Huntersville and Davidson.

And his worry is that something like this will happen again.

 

Fox 46 Charlotte reached out to NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners about Barbee's story.

 

Both say they have monthly meetings with first responders in each city or town along the project about the latest information on the construction.

 

In addition, I-77 mobility partners says,

 

"Accessible locations along the construction zone were created for emergency responders in the event that personnel need to respond to an incident whether in the work zone or on the interstate."

 

We reached out to both Huntersville and Cornelius Fire Departments about what they face when they get calls on the interstate. No one was available for this story.

 

 

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