Tanker Truck Crashes Over Guardrail, Plummets Near Detroit Home and Explodes

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A tanker crashed into a guardrail on a highway overpass Thursday, plummeting 30 to 40 feet to the ground where it exploded and caught fire near a home. The cab of the tanker got stuck on the barrier and the driver was killed, police said.

The driver, Robert Martinez, was believed to have been hauling liquid propane, fire spokeswoman Katrina Butler said.

The cause of the accident was under investigation.

"We don't know if he lost control. There was no wet pavement," Butler said.

The tanker fell from Interstate 75 in southwest Detroit. Flames shot dozens of feet in the air. A home near where it landed caught fire as well.

"None of the witnesses said the truck swerved," Michigan State Police Lt. Monica Yesh said. "There are no skid marks, which usually indicates a medical emergency somewhere along the line."

Images captured by a motorist showed flames leaping into the air from the bridge, sending plumes of black smoke into the air.

"The heat was so intense you could feel it all the way across the freeway," Alan Carter told WJBK-TV. "As a truck driver it just breaks my heart to see any truck upside-down like that."

When the tanker hit the guardrail, it flipped over and exploded when it hit the ground near a house, Michigan State Police Lt. Monica Yesh said. But the cab of the truck became lodged on the freeway barrier, which prevented it from toppling over the edge, she said.

The driver's body was found in the cab of the truck on the freeway, Yesh said.

A woman who said she lives in the house said her bedroom began burning about 8 a.m.

"When I was laying down, the flame came through my window," Latosha Davis told WDIV-TV. Davis and other occupants of the home were able to get out safely.

The home was engulfed within 10 to 20 minutes, she said.

Both directions of the interstate were closed in the area of the crash.

Investigators were determining if the bridge's support beams were damaged by the crash, Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said.