I-640W/I-40E Ramp Reopens After Tanker Explosion

By: Stacy McCloud
By: Stacy McCloud

Knoxville (WVLT) - After more than 14 hours, the flyover that connects I-640 West to I-40 East is finally open.

A terrible accident early Monday morning killed one man and left investigators puzzled.

Police aren't releasing the driver's identity, only that he's from Northeast Tennessee.

The crash happened above I-40 on the I-640 overpass near the Liberty Street Bridge.

TDOT will have to recertify the bridge before anyone will be allowed to drive on it again.

Right now, TDOT crews are repairing the bridge.

Meanwhile, KPD investigators are busy trying to figure out what happened.

"The heat was so intense that it was melting the overpass signs which were about 50-60 feet away from the tanker," says Knoxville Fire Department spokesman Darrell Whitaker says.

It's all the result of this accident: a tanker explosion.

"The truck did overturn on the bridge, slid several hundred feet before it comes to a stop and, of course, it was fully engulfed in fire at that point," says Darrell DeBusk, from KPD.

The driver died and investigators are still asking questions.

"The speed of the vehicle also what may have caused this vehicle to overturn," DeBusk says.

Possibly the most important question: the identity of the driver.

"The truck was burnt beyond recognition as far as identifying marks. We don't have any license plate, any placard," says Whitaker.

KPD's "Fatal Accident Investigation Team," is reconstructing the accident. They say it's a huge accident, but it could have been much worse.

"Had this occurred on I-40 with a lot of traffic we could have had serious injuries to other people or additional fatalities," DeBusk says.

And while working the fire, crews had a few different problems, trouble with nearby brush, a neighboring storm-drain system and overhead electrical wires.

"We had to call KUB in, they'll have to re-examine because it did burn the insulation off those wires," Whitaker says.

Right now, TDOT crews are working to get the I-640 overpass back open, the extreme heat of the fire coupled with fire crews dumping water onto it caused the concrete on the bridge to chip away.

"It was basically a river of fire from the top of the bridge down to the bottom of the bridge," says Travis Brickey from TDOT.

In the near future, TDOT will come back with an emergency contract to repair the surface of the bridge and the concrete railing.

And drivers, remember, there is no hazard to any traffic below.

As for the driver, we only know that he's from Northeast Tennessee, it will be sometime Tuesday before the medical examiner's office will have the information they need to make a positive ID.


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