A portion of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia collapsed Sunday after a tanker loaded with gasoline caught fire. Officials warned it could take months to replace the elevated road, further complicating traffic problems in one of the nation’s largest cities this summer.
The crash on I-95, which runs the length of the East Coast from Maine to southern Florida, left part of the north side of the highway in a pile of rubble and the south side so badly damaged that it will be demolished this week. .
Officials caution that investigations into the crash and the overpass collapse are just beginning, but here’s what we know so far.
Officials believe the tanker driver lost control.
A northbound driver on I-95 lost control early Sunday morning while negotiating a left-hand curve off an off-ramp in Northeast Philadelphia, Pennsylvania officials said.
The truck, which was carrying about 8,500 gallons of gasoline, “landed on its side, ruptured the tank and ignited the fire,” Pennsylvania’s Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll said at a news conference Monday.
A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday and was expected to issue a preliminary report in two to three weeks.
It is feared that the driver may have died in the accident.
Pennsylvania State Police announced Monday afternoon that a body had been found in the wreckage, but officials were still working to identify the remains.
Family members of Nathan Moody, a 53-year-old truck driver who lived in New Jersey and delivered fuel to area gas stations, said police contacted them requesting dental records.
Fire severity is often the cause of collapse.
There was no concern about the bridge before the accident, said Mr. Carroll said, describing it as structurally sound and 10 to 12 years old. The fire, which lasted for about an hour, may have melted or weakened the steel beams supporting the flyover, officials and structural engineers said.
Drexel University professor Abiy Agyere told The Associated Press that bridges like these typically lack fire protection, such as concrete encasement.
The southern part of the road has also been damaged and efforts to demolish it will begin as soon as Monday.
Repairing this section of the interstate could take months.
About 160,000 vehicles a day use the highway near the Delaware River in Northeast Philadelphia, officials said. But interstate traffic through the area already bypasses Philadelphia using the New Jersey Turnpike, which parallels I-95 east of the river and runs north on I-95 en route to New York City.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said at a news conference Sunday that he expects it will take months to repair the damaged section of the interstate.
Other highways that have suffered similar damage in the past have taken weeks to repair, said Thomas Gerne, an assistant professor of engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
“We’re in an unfortunate situation where a fire occurs underneath a structure,” he said.
Authorities have added extra cars to commuter trains, arranged diversions and offered free parking at some mass transit points, but traffic remained snarled on Monday.
“We ask people to be patient,” Mr. Carroll, the transportation secretary, said.
John Hurdle, Campbell Robertson And Amanda Holbuch Contributed report.