ROANOKE, VA – Hundreds of motorists were evacuated from the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel that connects Newport News to Roanoke, Virginia via Interstate 64. On Sunday night, traffic was stopped inside the tunnel to the South Island as a cloud of smoke from a smoldering vehicle fire forced the evacuation of the HRBT east tunnel. The tunnel was closed for nearly three hours. Police said a video inside the tunnel showed five drivers racing through the tunnel at high speeds at about 9:20 pm. One vehicle burst into flames and a fight broke out amongst the drivers, the Virginia State Police reported.
Motorists were told to leave their keys in their cars and evacuate the tunnel.
“This is what our crews train for – they calmly relocated around 40 people from the tunnel to the South Island, away from the dangerous smoke so that emergency responders could clear the crash and get traffic moving again,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said.
One of those motorists, Alicia Smith, expressed her gratitude to VDOT first responders, “Amid a lot of confusion and uncertainty, they kept their cool. The workers were friendly, kind, and professional. I saw them deescalate verbal confrontations with compassion and sensitivity. They did a great job of keeping us safe and trying to make us as comfortable as possible considering the situation by offering chairs and encouraging us to maintain social distancing and masking up.”