UPDATE 11:15 a.m., October 3: The third victim was identified as the driver of the crash cushion truck, Kenterrious L. Christian, 27, of Taylor, S.C. He died on the way to the hospital.
UPDATE 10:32 p.m.: Virginia State Police released the names of victims Wednesday night:
"Virginia State Police are still investigating a multi-vehicle crash that claimed the lives of three men Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 2) on Interstate 81 in Smyth County. At 3:27 p.m., Trooper W.B. Deskins was called to the scene in the southbound lanes at the 54 mile marker.
A 2009 Chevrolet pickup truck and a GMC highway crash cushion truck were traveling together southbound on Interstate 81. The pickup truck was on the right shoulder conducting a roadway inspection and the crash cushion truck was in the right lane. According to witnesses, the crash cushion truck did have its arrow activated and flashing to caution oncoming traffic of it and the pickup truck’s presence.
A tanker truck loaded with 8,500 gallons of gasoline was traveling in the left southbound lane when, according to witnesses, the truck swerved and then over-corrected. The tanker’s load shifted and overturned onto its side across both southbound lanes. The tanker truck slid into the pickup truck, exploded and then collided with the crash cushion truck. All three vehicles caught fire.
The driver of the tanker truck, Frank A. Skeens Jr., 48, of Castlewood, Va., died at the scene.
The driver of the pickup truck, Trevor Blankenship, 30, of Lebanon, Va., died at the scene.
The driver of the crash cushion truck died en-route to the hospital. State police are still in the process of notifying his next of kin.
The southbound lanes of I-81 are still closed at this time. VDOT is assessing the condition of the pavement due to the intensity of the explosion and subsequent fire.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. The Virginia State Police Wytheville Division Accident Reconstruction Team is assisting with the crash investigation."
UPDATE 6:59 p.m.: Virginia State Police said a three people died in Smyth County in a crash on Interstate 81 Wednesday afternoon.
The accident happened in the southbound lane near exit 54 which is the Groseclose exit. Virginia State Police told News 5 the tanker truck was traveling in the southbound lane when the driver came up on construction vehicles and swerved. The tanker then hit the back of a moving roadblock and struck a pickup truck belonging to the construction crew.
Out of the three people killed, one victim was in the tanker, one victim was in the pickup truck and the third victim was in the rolling roadblock. Police have not released the victims' names.
Traffic is moving in the northbound lane and the southbound lanes are still closed.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said they will need to repave that section of Interstate 81 one lane at a time.
Traffic is being rerouted to Lee Highway.
UPDATE 5:05 p.m.: Three people were killed in the accident, which involved three vehicles -- a tractor-trailer, a pickup truck, and a third car.
Northbound traffic is now moving, but southbound lanes are closed just pass Exit 54 near Groseclose.
We have a crew at the scene and will bring you more details as they're available.
UPDATE 4:05 p.m.: Virginia State Police released the following information about the accident on I-81:
"Virginia State Police are on the scene of a crash in which a tanker truck has caught fire in the southbound lanes of Interstate 81.
Due to the heavy smoke from the truck, lanes in both directions of Interstate 81 at the 55 mile marker are closed to through traffic right now, and traffic is being detoured.
State police were called to the scene at 2:57 p.m. Wednesday. One person has been flown from the scene via State Police Med-Flight helicopter."
We've learned about a multiple-vehicle accident in Smyth County.
The accident occurred Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 81 near mile marker 53 southbound.
There are reports of a tanker overturning and exploding.
Multiple vehicles are involved in the accident. There is currently no word on possible injuries.
We have a crew on the way to the scene and will bring you more details as they are available.