HAZEL PARK, Mich. – Flames shot hundreds of feet in the air after a gasoline tanker exploded Wednesday night underneath a highway overpass near Detroit. Part of the overpass collapsed onto the interstate below and spilled fuel burned as fire crews doused the road with water.
The drivers of the tanker, a semitrailer and a car were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, said Michigan State Police Lt. Shannon Sims. The three men were being interviewed as part of the investigation into how the accident happened.
"We don't know the chain of events," Sims said.
The tanker was on Interstate 75, a major area artery, about 10 miles north of downtown Detroit when it exploded beneath the 9 Mile Road overpass about 8 p.m., Sims said.
A wrecked, burned tractor-trailer could be seen near the destroyed tanker, which was carrying an estimated 13,000 gallons of fuel. Flames and black, billowing plumes of smoke reached 150 to 200 feet into the air before the fire was extinguished after nearly three hours.
"We don't know exactly what caused the explosion, but it did explode," Sims said of the tanker.
The tanker was carrying an estimated 9,000 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline and 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel, Hazel Park Fire Chief Ray DeWalt said. The fire burned directly beneath the overpass, making it difficult for firefighters to determine when all the fuel had burned away, he said.
Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were monitoring air quality and checking whether fuel spilled into surrounding sewer ditches, Sims said. But there were no evacuations or warnings for nearby residents.
A two-mile stretch of I-75 was indefinitely closed in both directions between Interstate 696 and 8 Mile Road, which forms the border between Hazel Park and Detroit, Sims said. State police were consulting with the Michigan Department of Transportation to reroute traffic around the site.