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Fwy. transition closed after fiery crash

June 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A fiery tanker crash created a traffic mess in Long Beach on Saturday.The deadly accident took place at the 91 and 710 interchange when a tanker hauling thousands of gallons of ethanol crashed.

The transition roads were closed on Monday, and there was no word on when they would reopen. However, inspectors were on the scene, trying to determine the condition of the overpasses.

The fire melted guard rails and sent chunks of concrete falling off a freeway transition bridge. Officials believe it may have structural damage.

California Highway Patrol investigators say the truck driver was headed eastbound on the 91 Freeway, trying to make the transition to the northbound 710. He lost control, slammed into a guard rail and the truck overturned. The ethanol the truck was hauling poured from the tanker and quickly caught fire directly under the two overpasses.

The CHP says the driver was trapped inside the cab of the truck. He was killed by the fire.

The fire raged for about 30 minutes, exposing the overpasses to intense heat.

"We obviously used water to put the fire out," said Josh Johnson, Long Beach Fire Department. "So, when you put the water on -- using cold water -- on a super-heated concrete, the concrete more or less falls apart. The water inside the concrete dissipates ... not holding the concrete and just falls apart. So all that is falling underneath there."

"We currently have alternate routes in place for traffic to travel around that location. And we are doing everything that we can to minimize the impact of this traffic situation on the motoring public," said Captain Chris O'Quinn, California Highway Patrol.

Officials say there is damage to the bridge, guard rail and pumping station. They hope to have a repair estimate sometime on Monday.

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