HAZEL PARK, Mich. – Smoke still filled the air Thursday above the collapsed bridge where a tanker carrying 13,000 gallons of fuel crashed and exploded a day earlier, and highway officials vowed to quickly start clearing rubble and assessing the damage to the major Detroit-area freeway.
Police said a car spun out of control along a winding section of Interstate 75 and caused the tanker to crash about 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The drivers of the car, the tanker and a third tractor-trailer in the crash escaped with only minor injuries, said Hazel Park Fire Chief Ray DeWalt. He said all were treated at hospitals and released.
"A vehicle lost control and caused the tanker to lose control, causing it to flip," DeWalt said. He said that caused a Meijer Inc. tractor-trailer carrying produce to crash as well.
Michigan Department of Transportation officials met Thursday with contractors to arrange the removal of the collapsed half of the bridge and the damaged, but still-standing portion over the other side of I-75.
Only once the debris is cleared will firefighters be able to finish cleaning up any pooled gasoline or other flammable materials, DeWalt said. Tens of thousands of commuters use the stretch of I-75 daily, and it was unclear when the highway might reopen.
Amateur photographer Michael Shutes was driving nearby when he saw the fire Wednesday night and headed to the scene. He arrived just before the overpass collapsed in the heat, triggering another explosion.
"A wall of flame just went up," the 43-year-old Ferndale man said as he examined the smoking rubble the next morning. "I can't believe anyone walked out of that."
A state trooper told the Detroit Free Press the tanker's driver and the produce truck's driver tried to dodge each other to prevent more damage.
"The guy in the Meijer's vehicle observed what was going on, so he was making some arrangement to reposition his vehicle, so the tanker could reposition his vehicle to avoid things," Trooper Charles Kemp said.