Fuel tanker catches fire, closes down I-75

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published July 13, 2021 | Updated July 13, 2021 4:32pm

 Plumes of black smoke and flames covered the sky on northbound Interstate 75, near Big Beaver Road, after an fuel tanker crashed and caught fire July 12.

Plumes of black smoke and flames covered the sky on northbound Interstate 75, near Big Beaver Road, after an fuel tanker crashed and caught fire July 12.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

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A large black cloud of smoke and flames billowed into the sky around 1:15 p.m. July 12 after a fuel tanker carrying 14,000 gallons of fuel crashed into the center median of northbound Interstate 75 Highway. 

The tanker, driven by a 46-year-old St. Clair Shores man, caught fire immediately after striking the median, near the Big Beaver Road overpass. The driver was able to escape from the blaze, a Troy Police Department press release states, and was transported to the Detroit Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries. 

“He’s being treated for burns along the left side (of his body),” Troy Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Jason Clark said, adding that the driver has not yet been released from treatment. “He’s at one of the burn centers in Detroit. That’s why he couldn’t go to one of the local Beaumonts.” 

An influx of 911 calls came into police dispatch from around the incident area when the flames and smoke began to cover the sky, Clark said. 

“We fielded so many 911 calls yesterday, I’m assuming the initial one was obviously a driver along I-75,” he said. “Right when it happened, initially we had to send extra staff down to our dispatch center to field so many calls, because of the area. We were not only getting calls from drivers. We have so many high-rise buildings in the area, we were fielding calls from office buildings. … You could see the smoke initially from many of the high rises near the Big Beaver corridor.”  

Ten seconds of video footage of the crash, obtained by police from a nearby car hauler on the highway, was posted to the Troy Police Department’s Facebook page. It shows “the driver was travelling in the center lane when the roadway started to turn, and for whatever reason — we don’t know, we’re still investigating — the vehicle swayed into that center wall,” Clark said. 

Troy police did not report any other injuries at the scene, nor were any other vehicles involved in the crash. With the volume of traffic seen on I-75 daily, Clark feels lucky to report that. 

Multiple Troy Fire Department crews, as well as the Oakland County Hazardous Materials Team, responded to the incident, deploying hardlines and using master streams nearby to contain the fire in its initial stages. 

They worked at the scene for two hours before they were able to extinguish the blaze completely with Class B foam. Crews stayed at the scene for several hours after the flames died to clean up and investigate the incident. 

The highway was closed down between Rochester and Crooks roads to allow crews to investigate. Michigan State Police troopers were at the scene assisting Troy’s emergency personnel with extensive efforts to reroute multiple lanes of cars off the highway, Clark added. 

Interstate 75 is currently closed between Crook and Square Lake roads, with efforts to re-establish one lane of traffic north and southbound within 24 hours. 

“It’s going to be a few weeks of reconstruction to get this back up to where it was, to make sure that it’s safe for the commuters. They’re going to have to repour that wall, I believe, but I think that they’re trying to get one lane open each way in the next 24 hours,” Clark said. 

The fuel tanker was carrying 10,000 gallons of gasoline and 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel when it crashed. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, Clark said.

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact the Troy Police Department Traffic Safety Unity at (248) 524-3477. 

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