DEARBORN, Mich. - A tanker fire on Interstate 94 in Dearborn burned for nearly two hours Wednesday, sending flames and thick black smoke billowing into the air.
The AKA Fuels tanker exploded around 11 a.m. in the eastbound lanes. It was extinguished around 1 p.m.
UPDATE: The Michigan Department of Transportation says the eastbound I-94 lanes will remain closed through the weekend. Traffic from the Southfield Freeway (M-39) will not be able to connect to eastbound I-94.
The interstate initially was shut down in both directions, but the westbound lanes have reopened. Eastbound lanes remain closed at the Greenfield Road exit.
Police haven't said what caused the tanker to leak fuel and catch fire, but Doug Thomas told Local 4 his brother, Ron, was the tanker's driver and got cut off by another car. Thomas said his brother was forced to swerve and hit a wall.
"As he was hitting the wall, the sparks ignited the fuel, I guess. Or, took the hoses off," Doug Thomas said.
Ron is spending the night with his family. He is OK, however, he told his family he may never be able to drive a truck again.
Eyewitness Damus Manover said he was driving behind the tanker and saw it make an abrupt move out of the center lane.
"I had to make a quick right turn to duck the debris, and (I was) afraid to get blown up in an explosion," Manover said.
Everyone is happy no one was seriously injured, or killed.
"We're really happy that everybody came out of this OK. We did transport one patient to the hospital, but very minor injuries. Everybody else walked away from the incident with no problems," Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murrary said.
Murray said the tanker was carrying 6,800 gallons of gasoline and 5,800 gallons of diesel.
"We did have a sizable amount of gas and diesel get into the sewer drains. We have the Western Wayne County hazmat team working with the Dearborn sewer department trying to contain the fuel that was released into the system. At this time, tentatively, we think we have a pretty good hold on it. But they're continuing to do investigations right now," Murray said. He also said there is no danger to any people in the immediate area.
Eyewitness Andrew Bender said the explosion looked like a bomb.
"The smoke was really thick and strong. You could feel the heat. Like, I had my windows down, and you could feel the heat all the way from the other viaduct all the way across. It was probably not even a quarter-mile. I mean, and as I was driving away you could feel and hear multiple more explosions even if you weren't, like, right next to the actual fire itself," Bender said.
Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said a detailed investigation into the fire's effect on the roadway will need to be done.31735488
"Once they clear the scene for us to get in and do some assessments, we'll get in there and check on the pavement conditions, as well as the bridges," he said. "We're looking at a pavement that is asphalt based. The fire will obviously char that surface. Now, how far the deterioration goes below the surface, that is something that we're going to have to determine once the scene is cleared."
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