Fires

Off-duty police officer risked life to help others after tanker explosion

Sunbury (Ohio) Police Officer Matthew Bowman

Sunbury (Ohio) Police Officer Matthew Bowman  (Courtesy of Matthew Bowman)

It was a dramatic sight: Flames and black smoke billowing over an Ohio interstate after a tanker carrying 8,000 gallons of gasoline exploded Monday.

Near the Dublin underpass, some drivers stopped but others wanted to continue to drive under the massive inferno. Off-duty Officer Matthew Bowman would not have it -- and risked his life to make sure nobody else got hurt.

“It was pretty intense. It all happened so far,” Bowman told Fox News on Tuesday. “I saw the tanker explode and it took me a minute to get off the road and out of my truck.”

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Bowman, a 29-year-old officer with the Sunbury Police Department, said he took out his phone and got about one minute of footage before he could feel the heat of the fire from inside his truck. It was at that moment that instinct took over and he wanted to make sure other drivers were safe.

“The fire spread quickly and I wanted to make sure people stayed back – the further back they were the better,” he added.

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Some vehicles stopped but others were stubborn and wanted to go around them and keep driving, he said.

“But once I told them I was serious and doing it for their safety, they stopped,” Bowman said. The explosion killed the driver of the tanker.

The Facebook group “Ohio Going Blue” said Bowman “selflessly put himself between danger and the public” and “likely saved lives” with his actions.

Bowman, who was a firefighter for three years before becoming a cop, said he just did what any other person in public safety would do in his position. Additionally, he said he would be happy to never see a fire like this one again.

He added: “I have never seen an explosion like this. I’ve only seen something like it in movies.”

The tanker rammed into a guardrail at about 10:30 a.m. and flipped onto its side, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Dublin police Lt. Steve Farmer said the fire probably started when the truck hit the guardrail and the 8,000 gallons on gasoline only fueled it.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com.

Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang