COMMERCE, Calif. — A tanker truck hauling 8,000 gallons on crude oil and diesel fuel crashed on a Southern California highway Sunday morning, Oct. 27, creating a giant inferno that injured two people and forced the evacuation of a neighborhood.
The rig was traveling on the Long Beach 710 freeway in Commerce, Calif., when it slammed into a side rail on an overpass and exploded. Aerial footage of the crashed tanker showed its charred remains dangling off of the bridge to the underpass below.
The driver of the truck was able to escape, but suffered life-threatening burn injuries. He is listed in critical condition at a nearby hospital. A second person who was reportedly walking on the street below when the crash occurred was also injured and is in serious condition.
The resulting fire spread through the streets of a neighborhood near the overpass, but no residences or businesses were destroyed. Early reports indicated most of the property damage involved several automobiles that were incinerated in the flames. Officials continue to test the air and water in the area to assess the environmental damage and determine what health threats the oil may potentially pose to residents of the area.
A witness told Southern California’s NBC 4 that the truck was spilling its load as it careened out of control and that sparks from the crash may have set the oil on fire. “…The flames traveled the long path the truck had traced,” the witness said, creating a fire that stretched for several hundred feet across both lanes of the highway.
California Transportation officials closed the overpass while they assessed the bridge for structural damage. The southbound lanes reopened on Monday, but the northbound lanes remained closed for cleanup and repair.