Truck Crash Causes PA Highway Collapse
On Sunday (June 11), a tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline took an off-ramp and crashed into a wall and caught fire, causing damage to a portion of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. According to reports, the truck landed on its side, hit the wall and ignited the fire sometime around 6:20 a.m.
Pennsylvania State Police have reportedly recovered one body from Sunday’s I-95 collapse in Northeast Philadelphia. Authorities have not provided any information on the deceased, though state that they are in the process of identifying the remains as crews also sift through the rubble.
According to reports, the tanker was on its way to a local Wawa for a gasoline delivery when the crash occurred. At the time of the collapse, there were no immediate reports of other injuries.
Cleanup and Repairs
On Monday, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro issued a disaster declaration, allowing the state to dip into federal funds and “cut red tape” to expedite needed repairs.
According to reports, the northbound lanes collapsed and the southbound lanes were damaged due to the intensity of the fire. Governor Shapiro stated that the lanes were “not structurally sound to carry any traffic.”
A tanker fire underneath I-95 causes northbound lanes to collapse, all lanes are shutdown. https://t.co/IYNloIv4li— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) June 11, 2023
“Demolition of the collapsed bridges has begun and detours are in place,” the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said. “A more exact timeline for the complete rebuilding of the I-95 roadway should be available in the coming days once the engineers complete their review.”
Officials report that demolition should take somewhere between four to five days, though the damage to part of the East Coast’s “primary highway” may take months to repair.
Investigators are reportedly monitoring emergency response while crews sift through rubble in search of the tanker truck. Jennifer Homendy, National Transportation and Safety Board Chair, said that finding the truck is a focus of the investigation.
“We have to get in and see what we think happened with the tanker truck, there are lots of different scenarios,” said Homendy, adding that investigators should also consider looking into the structural makeup of the bridge.
Firefighters reportedly initially faced the challenge of getting to “the seat of the fire,” according to Philadelphia Fire Department Battalion Chief Derek Bowmer in an interview with CNN. “It looked like we had a lot of heat and heavy fire underneath the underpass,” Bowmer said.
According to Bowmer, there were also reports of explosions around the collapse caused by “runoff of maybe some fuel or gas lines that could have been compromised by the accident.”
Firefighters had remained at the scene as a precaution due to the large volume of gas that was involved in the fire. Crews worked through the night to clear the collapsed debris and officials are warning residents to avoid the area and expect delays.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has also reportedly said that his agency is prepped to help local officials “swiftly address the extensive disruption caused by the collapse.” However, Buttigieg added that swiftly may not mean immediately.
Currently, all lanes of I-95 are reported to be closed between the Woodhaven and Aramingo exits. Surrounding streets may also be closed for emergency response purposes. The roadway is reportedly one of the busiest interstates in the region, having around 160,000 vehicles pass through Philadelphia each day.
“You are literally going to have millions of people in what is one of the largest population centers in the country impacted in a significant way," Rep. Brendan Boyle told CNN.
Leslie Richards, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, stated that the agency will be adding extra capacity and service to other transportation routes, as well as evaluating all options in how to aid travelers in working around the highway collapse.
President Biden has reportedly been briefed on the collapse and a spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration stated that administrator Shailen Bhatt will be in Philadelphia to provide federal support and assistance.