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DENVER - A busy stretch of Interstate 25 in Denver was severely damaged after a tanker truck caught fire and exploded Wednesday. The driver of the truck suffered injuries, but was pulled from the truck by passing motorists and workers.
Firefighters responded to Interstate 25 in southern Denver around noon local time after the semi caught fire, CBS affiliate KCNC-TV reports.
The station reports a preliminary investigation found a blown tire on the semi sparked the blaze, causing the tanker to explode, but an official cause was not released.
A witness told KCNC-TV he saw the semi lose control and hit a barrier just before the fire started.
“When he came to a stop I could see fuel, on the road northbound,” said Dave Fretz, a witness to the incident. “It was smoking and there was some flames happening in the back part of it. I knew this guy was in a truck and I didn’t see him come out of the truck.”
Fretz told the station while he went to check on the driver’s side of the semi, two Colorado Department of Transportation workers had pulled the driver from the passenger’s side and were helping him away from the fire.
Fretz said the driver was suffering from head and arm injuries, but the official condition of the driver was unavailable.
All 10 lanes of the highway, five in each direction, were shut down for several hours for crews to extinguish the blaze, forcing over 200,000 daily commuters to be diverted around the scene. By the Wednesday evening commute, three lanes were open on the southbound side of Interstate 25, but the northbound lanes remained closed into Thursday morning.
KCNC-TV reports the Colorado Department of Transportation will work overnight with hopes to reopen the remaining lanes by the Thursday morning commute.
CDOT workers said damage to the highway on the southbound lanes went about three inches deep into the pavement, but crews had yet to evaluate the extent of damage to the northbound lanes.
Officials said they will need to remove the toxic mixture of chemicals, foam, and water still in the roadway before repairs could be made.