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Published: Friday, 7/17/2009

I-75 cleanup from fuel tanker fire begins

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Crews remove debris from the collapsed section of bridge over northbound I-75 north of Detroit, where a fuel tanker exploded and an overpass collapsed Wednesday night. Workers also started demolition yesterday of the weakened but still standing span over the southbound lanes. The accident occurred when a car spun out of control along a winding section of the highway and caused the tanker to crash. Investigators with Hazel Park, a Detroit suburb where the accident occurred, said the drivers of the car, the tanker, and a third tractor-trailer in the crash escaped with only minor injuries. Crews remove debris from the collapsed section of bridge over northbound I-75 north of Detroit, where a fuel tanker exploded and an overpass collapsed Wednesday night. Workers also started demolition yesterday of the weakened but still standing span over the southbound lanes. The accident occurred when a car spun out of control along a winding section of the highway and caused the tanker to crash. Investigators with Hazel Park, a Detroit suburb where the accident occurred, said the drivers of the car, the tanker, and a third tractor-trailer in the crash escaped with only minor injuries.
CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge

HAZEL PARK, Mich. - Smoke filled the air yesterday above a collapsed bridge where a tanker carrying 13,000 gallons of fuel crashed and exploded a day earlier.

Three investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will look into the crash, with particular interest in the stability of the tanker.

The agency investigates only about a dozen road crashes a year, spokesman Peter Knudson said.

Police said a car spun out of control along a winding section of I-75 and caused the tanker to crash around 8 p.m. Wednesday. It shut down a stretch of road used 161,900 times a day, according to a 2007 state estimate.

The drivers of the car, the tanker, and another tractor-trailer in the crash escaped with only minor injuries, Hazel Park Fire Chief Ray DeWalt said.

"A vehicle lost control and caused the tanker to lose control, causing it to flip," Chief DeWalt said. He said that caused a Meijer Inc. tractor-trailer carrying produce to crash as well.

The truck drivers were treated at hospitals and released, while the car's driver didn't seek treatment, state police Lt. Shannon Sims said.

Lieutenant Sims identified the three as car driver Saied Haidarian-Shari, 27, of Clawson; tanker driver Michael St. John, 44, of Armada, and food truck driver Jody Cicero, 38, of Monroe.

The fire that was fed by 13,000 gallons of fuel from a tanker-truck explosion on  I-75 caused an overpass to collapse onto I-75 north of Detroit on Wednesday night. The fire that was fed by 13,000 gallons of fuel from a tanker-truck explosion on I-75 caused an overpass to collapse onto I-75 north of Detroit on Wednesday night.
WILLIAM ARCHIE / AP Enlarge

A video taken near a gas station showed seven vehicles driving through flames and smoke in the two minutes after the crash.

Half of the bridge collapsed minutes later.

It was unclear when commuters might be able to return to the stretch of I-75, Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said. He said damage from the fire and blast was worse than readily be readily apparent, affecting the surface of I-75 in both directions.

An inspection will tell how long it will take to fix the road, Mr. Morosi said.

"We are doing everything in our power to get this under way as soon as possible," he said. "We will work around the clock until it's back in service."

The state also will look into who is liable for the cost of the work, he said. Police have not cited anyone.

Elsewhere, a tanker carrying 1,200 gallons of fuel exploded at a gas station in western Tennessee, causing officials to evacuate people within a quarter-mile of the station and to shut down an exit ramp on nearby I-40.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the tanker was filling an underground tank in Jackson when a car drove over the hose and ruptured it.



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