Freeway explosion: Tanker truck fire may close 60 for days
The tanker truck explosion that caused structural damage to an overpass of the 60 Freeway could keep the busy route closed for several days, authorities said.
Engineers were checking the badly burned roadway and freeway surface to determine when the 60 through Montebello can reopen.
Traffic was backed up for miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
"The explosion most witnesses heard was the concrete exploding from the extreme heat," said Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessell. Water in the concrete boiled, then popped, he said.
Wessell said the truck driver reported the rear trailer ablaze before he came to a stop under the Paramount Boulevard overpass. The fire escalated, causing extremely high temperatures and he was forced to abandon the truck before he could pull completely off to the side of the freeway.
A California Highway Patrol official said a passing motorist saw the flames and called 911.
The freeway was shut down between the 605 and 710 freeways indefinitely.
"Traffic isn't going to flow through here anytime soon," said CHP Officer Sal Gomez. "The bridge's integrity is something of great concern."
Miguel Osorio, 25, was helping customers inside a Chevron gas station when he heard two separate explosions. The first bang was loud but not very strong. Still, it caused him to worry when he saw thick, black smoke billowing in the sky.
Fearing a sister gas station might be on fire, Osorio called his colleague who worked at the establishment down the street.
“It gave me a good scare,” the Montebello resident said. “The fire looked like it was coming from that general area.”
Then the intensity from a second explosion caused the floor under his feet to vibrate.
Eastbound traffic is being rerouted to Garfield and Wilcox avenues while westbound traffic is being redirected to San Gabriel Boulevard.
CHP officials suggest that commuters take the 10 Freeway or side streets such as Beverly and Whittier boulevards to get past the accident.
-- Angel Jennings and Richard Winton
Photo: A tanker truck burns beneath the Paramount overpass on the eastbound 60 Freeway in Montebello.
Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times