Fiery gasoline tanker crash snarls traffic, closes I-95 in Connecticut

NORWALK, Conn. — A tanker truck filled with gasoline burst into flames in a three-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 in Connecticut, closing the East Coast’s main north-south highway Thursday and causing major traffic jams.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said there were no serious injuries in the 5:30 a.m. accident. But the highway was expected to be closed for much of the day.

Text alerts were sent to residents of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and trucking companies were notified to find alternative routes and means of travel, he said. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has also been notified.

“I know what an incredible inconvenience this is for people and all I can ask you to do is stay away from that area as best you can,” Lamont said during a briefing in Hartford. “The traffic jams are horrendous.”

Traffic was backed up for dozens of miles during the morning rush hour and the crash left other highways and secondary roads in gridlock. The major alternate route in the area, the Merritt Parkway, cannot be used by trucks because the underpasses on that highway are too low.

The accident was reminiscent of last year’s deadly accident in Philadelphia along I-95 when a tractor-trailer carrying gasoline lost control and caught fire, destroying a section of the highway.

Thursday’s accident occurred under a bridge. The overpass has been damaged but appeared to be “stable and safe,” said Scott Hill, chief engineer for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Engineers were still waiting at noon to access the scene and assess the full extent of the damage with the goal of getting the highway reopened as quickly as possible.

“As you know, there has been several other incidents around the state and elsewhere where when a tanker truck caught fire underneath the bridge, the bridge ultimately had to be replaced,” Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said. “Hopefully that will be the case here.”

Utility crews were working to replace downed wires and crews also needed to offload about 3,000 gallons (about 11,400 liters) of gasoline that remained on the tanker, which was carrying a load of about 8,500 gallons (about 32,000 liters) when it crashed, officials said.

“Gasoline can really heat up and heat the bridge up and cause the steel to deform,” he said. “Once we figure out everything that’s associated with the safety of the traveling public and what we can and can’t do, we’ll get more updates to you.”

Environmental crews were also working to clean up gasoline and firefighting foam that ran off into the Norwalk River, officials said.

The crash came just over a year after a similar wreck on Interstate 95 in Connecticut that forced the closure of the highway.

In April 2023, another fuel truck caught fire after colliding with a stopped car on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge between New London and Groton. The fuel truck driver was killed. The crash shut down the southbound side of the bridge for hours, while the northbound side was closed briefly. The driver of the car was recently charged with negligent homicide.

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