A trucker hauling 9000 gallons of gasoline lost his life yesterday when his rig overturned, causing a series of explosions and a massive fire that forced hundreds of people to evacuate.
California Highway Patrol trooper Eric Zuniga said, “In my nine-year career, it’s one of the worst ones I’ve seen.”
Tanker Truck Rolls While Exiting Highway
The crash happened on May 23 in Atwater, California, around 10 a.m. According to CHP, the tanker overturned as the truck was exiting off of southbound Highway 99 onto Applegate Road. The crash caused numerous explosions and sent waves of heavy black smoke and flames dozens of feet up into the sky.
The truck driver did not make it out of the cab of his truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.
CHP: Speed May Have Been A Factor In Crash
CHP is still investigating the cause of the crash, but they say speed may have been a factor. According to Zuniga, “It appears the driver was going a little too fast, took the turn too fast and collided with the center median, concrete center median, causing it to turn over and at that point the gas tank ruptured and caught fire.”
Fire And Explosions Forced Evacuations
Police scrambled to evacuate nearby businesses. In all, about 250 people were evacuated.
In the video below, you can see frightened Panda Express employees rushing out of the building to safety moments after the crash.
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The heat from the fire caused severe property damage, melting business’s signs, street lamps, and passenger vehicles. Trees in the area were scorched. City officials are concerned that gasoline has leaked in nearby drainage systems and could contaminate the city’s water.
CHP says that it could take a week before some of the affected businesses can reopen.
In a statement, the Atwater Police Department wrote, “The horrific tanker truck rollover accident that occurred earlier this morning, which ultimately took the life of the truck driver, is a grim reminder of how quick tragic events can strike.“