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Tanker fire: Witnesses called 911 to report flames before explosion

December 15, 2011 | 10:08 am

Witnesses saw sparks coming from tanker
In the minutes before a gasoline-loaded tanker truck erupted in a massive fireball, other drivers on the 60 Freeway called 911 to report seeing sparks and flames coming from the back of the big rig, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Sgt. Denise Joslin said authorities still don't know what caused the truck to burst into flames. She said faulty brakes still are being considered as a possible factor.

Joslin said CHP investigators will inspect the truck and have already interviewed the driver.

PHOTOS: Fiery crash on the 60 Freeway

Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel said Wednesday the truck driver noticed his rear trailer was 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.

Had he stopped well before the bridge, "it'd be a whole different thing," one Caltrans officials said.

Now, the 60 Freeway is expected to be closed through the weekend, between the 605 and the 710. The closure has caused and will continue to cause massive delays for commuters.


The intense fuel fire caused so much damage to the Paramount Boulevard overpass that the concrete exploded and pieces of the bridge were crumbling to the freeway below. Officials said they will begin immediate demolition of the eastbound side of the bridge Thursday morning.

"This is definitely coming down today," said Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler.

He said it is unclear how long the demolition will take and more tests are being conducted to determine whether the westbound side also will be torn down.


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-- Sam Quinones in Montebello

Photo: Los Angeles County firefighters battle a tanker fire on the eastbound 60 Freeway on Wednesday. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times