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Freeway explosion: Workers demolish bridge amid painful commute

December 15, 2011 |  7:55 am


Workers on Thursday will begin demolishing a bridge on the 60 Freeway that was structurally damaged in a tanker truck explosion, and commuters figured out how to do without the freeway for at least the next several days.

The closure was jamming the Thursday morning commute as drivers clogged other freeways and roads into downtown Los Angeles. Officials said the 60 Freeway could remain closed through the weekend. Some commuters were turning to public transportation.

On Wednesday night, crews were maneuvering heavy equipment, brought in from Irvine, into place to begin the work, the California Highway Patrol said.

PHOTOS: Fiery crash on the 60 Freeway

The explosion shortly after noon Wednesday was fueled by 8,800 gallons of gasoline and caused moisture inside the concrete overpass to boil over and blow out chunks of rubble, fire officials said.

"The explosion most witnesses heard was the concrete exploding from the extreme heat," said Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel.

Firefighters reported seeing pieces of metal and concrete dropping from the overpass as they arrived on the scene, officials said. Massive billows of black smoke rose from underneath the bridge as fire crews tried to beat back flames. They battled the blaze for about two hours before it was extinguished. Late Wednesday, crews were off-loading the remaining fuel on the truck.


The cause of the fire had not been determined and was under investigation by the CHP.

Witnesses described hearing two explosions, the second of which caused floors to vibrate in nearby buildings.

Officials said it was unclear whether the eastbound truck had hit another vehicle, run over debris or had a mechanical problem. CHP investigators were planning to inspect the tanker to determine whether brake or other mechanical failure was involved.

It remains unclear how much damage was done to the roadway itself. The freeway is closed between the 710 and 605.

"We expect this closure is going to continue into the weekend," CHP Sgt. Denise Joselin told CBS 2 News.

To commuters, she said: "Give yourself plenty of time this morning." About 220,000 motorists use the freeway every day, state transportation officials said.

The fuel tanker, which burned for several hours, has been removed from the scene . The driver and a passenger were able to exit the truck without injury. A firefighter fractured his leg in the aftermath, Wessel said.

The inferno sent billowing black smoke into the sky that was visible for miles and stranded hundreds of motorists. The incident clogged nearby freeways and side streets for miles around, as fire crews labored to put out the flames.


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