RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The man killed in a fiery I-95 wreck — whose identity had originally stumped investigators — has been identified by the the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Joseph Anthony George, 68, of Pittsburgh, died Wednesday near mile-marker 95 in Johnston County, the highway patrol now says.
The wreck sparked a fire that released smoke feared to be toxic, prompting evacuations in the area. It was one of three major wrecks within a few miles of one another that afternoon.
The recreational vehicle he was driving rear-ended a tractor-trailer that was carrying a “solid corrosive” material, causing it to ignite, according to investigators. No one else is believed to have been inside the recreation vehicle when the crash occurred, Lt. Jeff Gordon of the highway patrol said.
First responders opted to let the fire burn itself out, a process that lasted long into the night. What was left was burned largely beyond recognition, investigators said; even the license tag was gone. The driver, now identified as George, had been ejected in the wreck, but did not have any identifying information on his person at the time, authorities said.
The highway patrol initially asked the public to submit photos and videos taken of the wreck shortly after it happened in a bid to track down the identity of the driver through its license number or similar information.
However, investigators were ultimately able to track down George’s identity through the charred wreck of the RV itself. While almost all usable information had been burned away, the state highway patrol said, investigators spotted a still-legible Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, on the drive shaft. They used that information to to track down the registered owner, George.
While investigators weren’t initially able to say for certain that no one else had been in the recreational vehicle and died in the wreck, they now say they believe George was alone in the vehicle at the time of the collision.