Fiery truck crash in Philadelphia closes stretch of I-95

Nabil Anas

Global Courant

Interstate Highway 95, the main highway between the East Coast’s two largest cities, New York City and Philadelphia, will be closed for months after a tanker truck fire caused a section to collapse, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said Sunday.

An elevated section of northbound lanes in northeast Philadelphia collapsed, trapping the tanker truck and whoever was inside it under 500 tons of concrete, steel and debris, at about 6:20 a.m., the governor said at a news conference.

Shapiro called the scene “a remarkably devastating place.”

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Corresponding southbound elevated lanes were found to lack structural integrity, closing the entire highway, the governor said.

No deaths or injuries were reported, but first responders had yet to get to the tanker or any possible occupants, officials said. The fire was still smoldering but otherwise under control, they said.

A disaster declaration will be issued on Monday, he said, allowing the state to quickly tap into federal funds and begin rebuilding the roadway.

“We expect this to take several months,” the governor said of the completion.

Officials urged Philadelphians to avoid the area and plan alternate routes for Monday morning commutes while they worked out a plan for temporary diversions and added public transit options.

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“I-95 is, of course, a critical road,” the governor said. “It supports our economy and plays an important role in people’s daily lives.”

Secretary of State for Transportation Mike Carroll said the portion of the highway carries about 160,000 vehicles a day and is likely the busiest highway in Pennsylvania.

The Eastern Transportation Coalition, a 17-state partnership, says the roadway and associated corridor, which stretches from nearly the tip of Florida to the Canadian border, carries nearly $200 billion in goods and services related to ports along the route.

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Shapiro said the tanker was carrying some petroleum product.

According to a spokesperson for the US Coast Guard, the tanker contained 8,500 liters of product. The military department sent a boat to the scene to investigate the impact on the water, but it appears no gasoline has reached the Delaware River.

There was some “shine,” an iridescent appearance on the surface of the water, but it seemed confined to a nearby bay, the spokesman said.

All lanes of the highway are closed for about 10 miles between Academy Avenue (Exit 32) to the north and the Betsy Ross Bridge (Exit 26) to the south, state transportation officials said.

“The roadway is gone,” unnamed officials said NBCPhiladelphia.

Runoff from fuel or gas lines from the burning truck has also caused underground explosions, Philadelphia Fire Department Captain Derrick Bowmer told reporters.

“We’ll be here for a while,” he said. “There’s fire coming out of those manholes.”

A video posted to social media early Sunday taken by a driver appeared to show plumes of black smoke rising over the highway.

Bowmer said officials received a call about an accident at 6:22 a.m., but it was not immediately clear if there were any injuries.

A section of I-95 collapsed in Philadelphia on June 11, 2023.WCAU

In a tweetPhiladelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told locals to avoid the area and plan alternate travel routes, and thanked the first respondents for their work.

Shapiro said in a tweet he was briefed by officials and that first responders and transport officers were on the scene. Shapiro added that he and Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis “worked closely” with officials in the state, across New Jersey and in the federal government.

“For now, please avoid the area and follow directions from first responders on scene.” Shapiro wrote.

President Joe Biden was briefed on the collapse and has been in contact with Shapiro and the Philadelphia mayor’s office, according to a tweet from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted that he was “monitoring the situation closely” and coordinating with officials on response.

“I have been in touch with (the Federal Highway Administration) and have spoken with Governor Shapiro to offer any assistance USDOT can provide to assist with recovery and reconstruction,” he tweeted.

The National Transportation Safety Board also monitored the situation and collected information.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Agency asked questions of local officials.

A spokesman for the state police told NBC News in a statement that the agency is working with the Philadelphia Police Department to monitor and redirect traffic.

Jay Blackman, Austin Mullen and Doha Madani contributed.

Fiery truck crash in Philadelphia closes stretch of I-95

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