DETROIT (WWJ) – Crews are working around the clock to determine to extent of the damage done to I-94 following a fiery crash and explosion involving a tanker truck.
The eastbound side of the freeway remains closed between the Southfield Freeway and Wyoming where the accident happened late Wednesday morning, near the Detroit-Dearborn border.
Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray said there was an accident between a car and the tanker — which crashed into the overpass and burst into flames. That caused the tanker to lose about 12,000 gallons of gas and diesel fuel, while the other vehicle flipped onto the other side of the freeway.
Working in the area, Arnold Mitchell ran down onto the freeway to check things out — getting close enough, he said, to feel the heat from the fire.
“I seen the explosion…I actually seen the crash and I heard the explosion,” he said. “But I seen a big ball of fire and I’m like, man, you gotta get outta here, we don’t know if something else’s gonna happen.”
While the truck driver suffered only minor injuries, MDOT Spokesperson Diane Cross told WWJ Newsradio 950 there was some major damage done.
“We did hear from one of our MDOT folks from the scene that the sewer lines are in fire as well in that area,” Cross said. “Which means that whatever was in that truck that exploded did sent the flame and materials into our drains, all of that is going to have to be worked out once we get this fire out.”
A HAZMAT team was checking the sewer system to determine how much fuel may have seeped in, but Murray said there’s no danger to the public.
In addition to freeway, the Detroit Sewer and Water Department is helping to determine if the nearby drainage system was damaged.
The westbound lanes of I-94 near the crash site reopened late Wednesday afternoon, but Cross said a section of the freeway will remain shut down at Michigan Ave. well into Wednesday night. She urged motorists to keep away from the scene.
Meantime, crews were working to get about a thousand gallons off the tanker before they were able to fully inspect the road.
MDOT’s Rob Morosi said they when they do finally open the freeway, it will only be the right lane between Michigan Avenue and I-96 through the weekend.
Morosi said that, luckily, that stretch of freeway was totally rebuilt about 10 years ago.
“…This roadway was rebuilt in 2004; it’s still holding up very, very well. As to the extent of the damage, it’s still difficult to say,” Morisi said.
“Obviously it’s going to need to be repaired at some point. Can we open it at some point before it’s repaired? That’s still to be determined. That will be the X-factor.”
Morosi said crews will also be inspecting the nearby overpasses.
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