Sunday, April 29, 2007
Bay Bridge Collapses
SAN FRANCISCO -- A gasoline tanker truck crashed and exploded in a ball of flames early today, causing a 250-foot stretch of a major Bay Area freeway interchange to melt and collapse on a roadway below, authorities said.
Officials said the damage to the freeway maze east of the Bay Bridge, which carries 270,000 vehicles to and from San Francisco each day, is being assessed by engineers, but repairs are expected to disrupt traffic this week and probably longer.
After the truck carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline overturned, the fuel ignited and witnesses reported seeing flames shoot more than 250 feet in the air, the California Highway Patrol said.
The driver escaped with moderate burns, and there were no other reported injuries in the accident, which occurred in light traffic at about 3:45 a.m., a CHP spokeswoman said. The CHP said the initial investigation revealed that unsafe speed was a factor in the accident.
The accident occurred within several miles of two of the Bay Area's most well-known disasters. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a portion of the Bay Bridge buckled and collapsed, killing a motorist. And in 1982, seven people were killed in the Caldecott Tunnel after a stalled car, a bus and a gasoline tanker were involved in a fiery crash.
Sunday's crash and freeway collapse "had elements of both of those accidents," said California Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Haus.
The CHP said the truck crashed on the interchange from westbound Interstate 80 to southbound Interstate 880, which carries traffic from Berkeley and Vallejo south toward San Jose. The CHP said intense flames and heat from the fire caused the overhead connector from eastbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580, which carries traffic from San Francisco into East Bay, to fall onto the interchange.
Officials encouraged motorists to carpool, find alternative routes around the closure and take public transportation. The Bay Area Rapid Transit District announced that it would be running longer trains Monday and increase its capacity by 50% to help relieve increased traffic congestion.
By Tim Reiterman, Times Staff Writer
1:29 PM PDT, April 29, 2007