MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – All lanes of Highway 53 reopened Friday afternoon following a nearly two-day-long closure for cleanup after a fatal helicopter crash.
On Wednesday, shortly after 3:00 p.m., a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by two Tennessee National Guard members crashed in Madison County, Alabama.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Wadham and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danny Randolph were on a ‘training mission’ when the helicopter crashed, according to the Tennessee National Guard. The two men were based out of Nashville’s Berry Field Air National Guard Base.
Since then, several agencies have been working to clean up debris in the area of Highway 53 and Burwell Road. The debris was removed on Thursday, however, there was still damage to the road that the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) needed to repair.
Workers finished road repairs Friday, patching a small section of pavement on the southbound lanes of Alabama Highway 53 and filling an area of the median. All lanes opened around 1 p.m.
Highway 53 is a heavily traveled state highway connecting Huntsville and Ardmore, but traffic had to be rerouted after the helicopter crash for nearly 48 hours. Drivers say their commute Friday morning before lanes reopened was stressful
“So today actually I was headed to work and I noticed I forgot something and had to turn around but because of the way the roads were blocked off I actually ended up getting stuck in another hour and a half of traffic,” Commuter Grace Lombard said. “So an hour and a half to and from anywhere I’m tryna go when I can be fifteen minutes from there.”
Madison County District 4 Commissioner Phil Vandiver confirmed Thursday evening that the helicopter debris has been cleared and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) would begin to repair the roadway on Friday.
ALDOT said repairs to Highway 53 near Burwell Road in Madison County are now complete and all lanes are open in both directions, but the process was rigorous.
“Our crews went in there they put in a patch and paved a patch in a small section of pavement that had been damaged during the crash. They also filled in an area on the median where there had been some damage,” Seth Burkett with ALDOT said.
Burkett said there were also environmental concerns with the removal of the helicopter and the repairs to the road.
“The Alabama Department of Environmental Management came in, looked at it and cleared it for us to go ahead and be able to fill that in and open the road up so we got everything opened up during lunchtime today,” Burkett said.
Due to the closure, several Madison County Schools operated on a two-hour delay on Friday, February 17. The delay was meant to help alleviate traffic congestion in the closed portions of the highway.
News 19 crews on the scene said the highway was officially re-opened around 1 p.m