BRASELTON -- A Gwinnett woman was critically injured after driving the wrong way down Interstate 85 and striking a tractor-trailer late Thursday night, police said.
Braselton police identified the victim Friday as Linda Kay Corlew, 34. She was transferred from a Gainesville hospital to Atlanta Medical Center, where she remained in critical condition Friday, police said.
The incident shut down northbound lanes of I-85 in the wee hours of Friday morning but did not affect morning commuter traffic.
Police believe Corlew entered the northbound lanes heading south in a Ford Explorer at exit 129 just after 11 p.m. She made it only about 3/10ths of a mile before encountering a succession of three semi trailers, said Braselton police Assistant Chief Lou Solis.
Corlew's SUV hit the middle and rear axle of the first big rig, started fishtailing and slammed head-on into the third, a UPS semi. From there, the SUV hit a northbound 2002 Chevy Express van, which flipped on its side. Both the SUV and van came to a rest on the interstate's barrier cables, Solis said.
The impact ejected Corlew into the median and was forceful enough that the SUV coughed up its engine. The van's driver complained of shoulder pain and was sent to an Athens hospital. No other injuries were reported.
Solis said Corlew's most severe injuries appeared to have been to her legs.
The UPS semi spilled about 20 to 25 gallons of fuel on the interstate, requiring assistance from a Hazmat team, Solis said.
Blood alcohol tests and possible charges are pending in the Georgia State Patrol investigation, Solis said. Investigators believe Corlew had left a bar and grill in the Braselton area.
"You could smell the alcohol when you went to her car," Solis said.
The incident underscores the need for drivers to always be buckled in, the assistant chief added.
"We learned the hard way, but you've got to put that seatbelt on," Solis said. "A seatbelt is a must."