SALT LAKE CITY — A tanker carrying 8,000 gallons of fuel engulfed southbound I-15 with flames early Friday, forcing the freeway's closure in Salt Lake City for several hours.
A Honda Civic swerved across all lanes of traffic about 1:30 a.m., struck a concrete barrier, then hit the trailer of a semitruck hauling 7,000 gallons of gasoline and 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, Utah Highway Patrol officials said.
The impact caused the semitruck to roll and catch fire as the fuel ignited. The diesel and gasoline spilled onto the road, and the tall flames scorched the freeway, burning for several hours.
Update: Fire is under control. Fire PIO en route to staging area at 1300 S. 500 W. pic.twitter.com/S9CgZT2TKC— Salt Lake City Fire Department (@slcfire) February 22, 2019
The two drivers involved in the crash were taken to local hospitals with minor injuries, according to Utah Department of Transportation's John Gleason. Troopers believe drowsy driving may be the cause behind the crash.
Crews extinguished the fire with foam — a method they said they learned last year when a flame-engulfed tanker damaged southbound I-15 in January 2018. They said the damage from this crash will take awhile to repair because of the damage to the barrier and road.
"You can imagine the intensity of the fire if it’s damaging concrete like this, and I was chipping away pieces of the concrete barrier here," Gleason said.
Here’s video of the concrete barrier damaged from the intensity of the tanker fire on I-15 southbound near 1800 S. UDOT crews will replace about 333 feet of burned and damaged barrier. pic.twitter.com/uKeIRoSDEp— John Gleason (@johnegleason) February 22, 2019
Both north and southbound I-15 closed around the time of the crash, but northbound opened soon after. Southbound remained closed near 1900 South for several hours as crews worked to extinguish the fire.
"I-15 is our most heavily-trafficked road. Terrible place for this to happen. Terrible time for it to happen, heading into the morning commute," Gleason said. "Two-hundred-and-seventy-thousand cars pass here on an average day. This is not the time or place you want something like this to happen."
The HOV lane and one other left lane reopened shortly after 7 a.m., as did the southbound collector ramp which allows commuters to access I-80 then get back onto southbound I-15, Gleason said.
Crews opened two more lanes about 10 a.m. and then the last lane about 4 p.m. in time for the evening commute. Crews temporarily patched the road with asphalt and will install a permanent concrete fix sometime in the coming weeks when the weather becomes warmer, Gleason said.
I just learned that our UDOT crews must repair 12 to 13 concrete panels, and replace 333 feet of concrete barrier. We will also assess damage to the drainage system caused by an explosion when gas from the tanker leaked into the pipes. pic.twitter.com/QG8BtE9q2x— John Gleason (@johnegleason) February 22, 2019
They will need to repair 12 to 13 concrete panels and replace 333 feet of concrete barrier, according to Gleason. They will also assess the damage to the drainage system caused by an explosion that was triggered by gas from the tanker leaking into the pipes.
UDOT crews preparing the road for the temporary patch. We’ll be able to put in the permanent fix sometime in the coming weeks when temperatures are warmer. We should be able to open the final I-15 SB lane sometime late this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/eWVBKOJhOa— John Gleason (@johnegleason) February 22, 2019
According to Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Pam Davenport, fuel did go into the drain, but she was unsure of the amount. She said the truck company is responsible for the remediation.
Delays from the crash stretched all the way back to Davis County during the Friday morning commute, but traffic is now moving fairly quickly along I-15. Officials urge evening commuters to slow down when they pass the area.
Get traffic updates on KSL Newsradio and check commute times on the KSL Traffic Page.
Contributing: Shara Park and Jed Boal, KSL TV and Andy Farnsworth and Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio