BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- One woman is dead after an early morning accident in Brunswick County. The crash shut down the northbound lanes of Highway 17 for more than four hours. The road is back open now, but that doesn't mean the problems are over. Highway Patrol says the driver of the car was trying to cross over 17 South from Main Street in Shallotte. Investigators say the woman driving did not yield for a blinking red light and was hit by a tractor trailer. Authorities say the woman pulled out in front of an 18-wheeler. The truck ran over the driver's side of the car, killing the woman instantly. Troopers say a witness saw a man climb out of the passenger side of the car and run away possibly to escape prosecution. Highway Patrol Trooper John King said, "There was a quantity of cocaine, or what appeared to be cocaine found just outside of the vehicle." The truck driver was not hurt, however, the impact caused the tractor trailer's gas tank to rupture and leak about 60 gallons of fuel onto the road. That made the northbound lane of Highway 17 extremely slippery and had authorities concerned about the safety of those heading home from bike week. Shallotte Fire Chief Paul Dunwell said, "It's dangerous to everyone, but particularly to motorcyclists, mainly because they don't have much traction and because they run on two wheels, and you know, you've got a balance issue there." Troopers say it's a good thing the tractor trailer was empty at the time of the collision, otherwise the accident may have been worse. King said, "That could have been a hazardous material spill, we could have had a very large fire here." Authorities have been checking with area hospitals in case the male passenger involved sought treatment for any injuries. Investigators say if the passenger in the car is found he could possibly face drug charges. Authorities have not ruled out drugs or alcohol being involved in the accident. The victim's name has not been released. Fire officials say the northbound lane of 17 will be slippery until the next good rain comes to help wash away the fuel.
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