State Police say speeding was a factor in yesterday’s accident that killed two people and blocked southbound Interstate 81 for hours. Troopers identify the victims as 61-year-old Emma Beckwith and 58-year-old Wanda Alexander, both from Florence, Alabama. Police say they were rear-seat passengers in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a speeding SUV; both were ejected in the resulting crash. Troopers say a Mississippi man was driving the SUV and charges are pending.

From State Police: SALEM, Va. – Virginia State Trooper C. Viera-Cintron is investigating a two vehicle crash on Interstate 81 in Roanoke County which resulted in two fatalities.  The crash occurred at 11:15 a.m. on Interstate 81, southbound, at the 139.9 mile marker, just south of exit 140. A 2015 Acura RDX was traveling south on Interstate 81 at a high rate of speed in the left lane, when the vehicle ran off the left side of the roadway and struck the guardrail.  The driver then lost control and the vehicle and struck a 1999 Ford Explorer; also traveling south on Interstate 81.  Both vehicles then ran off the right side of the roadway and struck the guardrail, ejecting one of the rear seat passengers from the Ford.  The vehicles then came back into the southbound lanes, at which time the Ford Explorer overturned, ejecting another rear seat passenger.  The Acura RDX again left the right side of the roadway striking an embankment, overturning multiple times and came to rest in the tree line.

The 2015 Acura was driven by Ralph Carl Bryant, 65; the passenger, Joan Dickerson Bryant, 65, both of Brookhaven, MS, were wearing their seatbelts and transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital for injuries received in the crash. The 1999 Ford was driven by Enid Beckwith, 59, of Memphis, TN, and front seat passenger, Annie Beckwith, 63, of Florence, AL; both were wearing their seatbelts and were transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital for injuries received in the crash.  The rear seat passengers, Emma Beckwith, 61, and Wanda Alexander, 58, both of Florence, AL, were not wearing seat belts; both were ejected and died at the scene.

Interstate 81 Southbound was closed from 11:25 a.m. until 4:39 p.m.   All southbound traffic was diverted off the Interstate to Route 11 while the Virginia State Police Accident Reconstruction Team and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (Salem Division) reconstructed the crash scene. Charges are pending.