A woman from Durham died and three others suffered personal injuries on the evening August 25 in traffic accidents on Interstate 85 in Durham, also causing traffic to be shut down for nearly three hours, according to police.


According to Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael, 35-year-old Michelle Lee Smith received helicopter transport to Duke Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.


Smith was a passenger in Chevrolet Lumina that collided with the rear of a tractor-trailer that had been involved in a previous accident in the southbound lanes of I-85 near Roxboro Road, according to Michael.


Traffic investigators say the first accident took place shortly after 5 p.m., when a southbound tractor-trailer driven by 58-year-old McComb, Mississippi resident Lawrence Dixon Jr. apparently tried to change lanes and struck a southbound 2003 Jaguar driven by 53-year-old Durham resident Dwight Edward Mason.


The impact caused the Jaguar to spin in front of the truck and collide with the right side of a southbound 1995 Chevrolet van driven by 29-year-old Hillsborough resident Jason Elijah Tabares.


About three minutes later, the Lumina, driven by 63-year-old Durham resident Betty Ellis Stephenson, struck the rear of the truck. Witnesses say Stephenson hit the brakes and swerved as an attempt to avoid the collision.


Mason and a passenger in his vehicle, 47-year-old Durham resident Sallie Diane Mason, both received transport to Durham Regional Hospital and were released after treatment. Dixon, Tabares, and a passenger in his van, 28-year-old Durham resident Vernon Antionne Pratt, were uninjured.

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