on April 29, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

California highway interchange collapses after tanker catches fire

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ A section of freeway that funnels traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed early Sunday after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and caught fire, authorities said.

The heat from the fire was intense enough to melt part of the freeway and cause the collapse, but the truck’s driver walked away from the scene with second-degree burns.

No other injuries were reported, which officials said was only possible because the accident happened so early on a Sunday morning. The truck driver took a taxi to a nearby hospital, Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol said.

The tanker carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline ignited around 3:45 a.m. after crashing into a pylon on the interchange, which connects westbound lanes of Interstate 80 to southbound I-880, about half a mile from the Bay Bridge’s toll plaza.

A preliminary investigation indicates he may have been speeding as he navigated the curving road, Cross said.

The fire melted a second interchange from eastbound I-80 to eastbound I-580 located above the first interchange, causing a 250-yard section of the roadway to collapse onto the roadway below, according to the highway patrol.

Witnesses reported flames from the blaze reached up to 200 feet high.

Late Sunday morning, the charred section of collapsed freeway was draped at a sharp angle onto the highway beneath, exposing a web of twisted metal beneath the concrete.

The Bay Bridge consists of two heavily traveled, double-decked bridges about two miles long straddling San Francisco Bay. State transportation officials said 280,000 commuters take the bridge into San Francisco each day.

Authorities said the accident on a highway interchange could take months to repair, and that it would cause the worst disruption for Bay Area commuters since a 1989 earthquake damaged a section of the Bay Bridge itself.