Witnesses describe ‘chaotic’ HRBT crash

Posted at 5:13 PM, Jul 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-17 21:28:31-04

Norfolk, Va. - A fiery car crash in its eastbound tube shut down the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel for several hours last night.

Brian Keyes was stuck inside the tunnel with his family.

"We could smell a strong odor of the smoke. We then kind of looked down at the middle of the tunnel and we could see a big black cloud of smoke," Keyes explained.

As the fire grew worse, more than 70 drivers were ordered out of the tunnel as smoke filled the tube.

Nisa Cochran had no idea what was going on.

"Everyone in the tunnel could start to hear when the tires started to explode and that’s when everyone,  I  think, started to panic because we didn’t know what it was at first," Cochran tells News 3.

State Police say around 7:30 p.m. a 2005 Volkswagen rear ended a 2015 Acura.

The impact caused both cars to catch fire.

Keyes says he’s pleased with VDOT and State Police’s response but wish they would have better communicated what was happening.

"There was a lot of things that really went through my mind, like terrorism. Stuff like that. I just didn’t know," Keyes said.

The tunnel reopened around Midnight.

Fire officials say nine people were treated for exhaustion and that four of those nine were transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

State police are reporting that 15 people were treated for smoke inhalation.

Neither Keyes nor Cochran were injured.