After being closed, or partially closed for hours, I-91 north in Meriden near the Wallingford town line has opened following a crash involving an oil tanker.
Heavy smoke could be seen for miles after a crash was reported between exits 16 and 15 around 9:30 a.m. The highway was closed for several hours on Monday.
Meriden Fire Chief Kenneth Morgan told Eyewitness News the tanker truck with Ron's Family Fuel out of Plantsville had just loaded 2,900 gallons of home heating oil when the crash occurred.
State police are still investigating the cause of the crash, but the belief is that the tanker blew a tire, which caused the driver to lose control and crash. That sent the fuel all over the road with the truck going up in flames.
"He obviously went off the side of the road, hit the guard rail, and based on the position of the vehicle, believed he hit the bridge, that spun the vehicle in the process, ripped the tanker off the chassis of the truck," Morgan said.
Morgan said a Good Samaritan behind the tanker, ran up and helped pull the driver out of the truck. The driver was transported to a local hospital with "non-life-threatening injuries," police said.
“The tanker truck was in the right lane. I was in the left lane. I heard the pop, all of a sudden he hit the bridge abutment,” Steve Slaiciunas, of Wallingford said. “And as soon as he hit the bridge abutment, there was an explosion of gas, piece of the vehicle, gas went flying under my car."
Department of Energy & Environmental Protection officials removed contaminated soil from the median.
With no place to go and not enough time to stop, Slaiciunas drove through the fire, which caused this car to catch on fire.
"When I saw the smoke come under my feet, I knew to get out of my car, got off to the side of the road and the car went up," Slaiciunas said.
Eyewitnesses said it all happened so quickly.
"Its seconds, you can't even describe it," Robert Antidormi, of Naugatuck, said. "You're driving one second, and the next thing you know you're trying to dodge gas, dodge metal, it's insane, pretty nuts."
Department of Transportation officials said the northbound side could be closed for quite some time. State police are hoping to have the northbound side open by rush hour. Crews need to get the foam off the road and check the road to see if it is drivable.
DOT officials examined the bridge on the Murdoch Road overpass and made sure it was stable before allowing traffic on it.
The driver is expected to be okay.
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