NEW ORLEANS, La. — The driver of a loaded commercial tanker truck that overturned and burst into flames on Interstate 10 in New Orleans Tuesday said she lost control of the vehicle after a passenger car cut her off.
The 24-year-old tank truck driver told investigators that she was merging onto I-10 east from I-510 around 4:30 p.m. when a car abruptly moved into her lane, causing her to swerve to avoid colliding with the vehicle. The near-collision caused the 18-wheeler, which was hauling about 8,600 gallons of fuel, to overturn and burst into flames.
A New Orleans Fire Department press release said that “The accident emitted an intense amount of flames, radiant heat and plumes of smoke that could be seen from miles away.”
The driver was able to escape the burning vehicle and rescuers took her to New Orleans East Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries to her face, left arm, and right knee, the Times-Picayune reported.
The New Orleans Fire Department dispatched 20 units and 50 firefighters to the scene and fought the blaze with a fire extinguishing foam.
The crash and efforts to stop the fire and subsequent cleanup work caused major traffic delays as both eastbound and westbound lanes were diverted off of the interstate.
Commercial truck crashes occur nearly 11 times a day on average in the United States, killing 4,000 people a year and injuring more than 100,000. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) records show that the problem has been getting steadily worse since 2009 as the economy recovered and the stream of commerce involving commercial trucks increased.
Crashes involving commercial trucks – and especially fuel tankers – can be devastating. Irresponsible driving on the part of a motorist, lack of sleep on the part of a commercial driver, or any other causes of a preventable crash demonstrate how a seemingly small error can have immense and devastating consequences.