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Seattle Area Highway Reopens After Tanker Inferno

July 16, 2002

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Seattle Area Highway Reopens After Tanker Inferno

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SEATTLE (KING5.com) -- Traffic was back to normal with all lanes of I-90 reopened early Wednesday morning, after a massive fire erupted from an overturned tanker at Issaquah, Wash., Tuesday evening.

Crews worked all night to get the road repaired. They finally managed to move the shell of the tanker shortly before 2 a.m.. Then they began repairing the pavement, destroyed by the fuel oil. The fire was extinguished with lots of foam.

"The pavement has been pretty well ruined,” said Washington Secretary of Transportation, Doug MacDonald. Crews had to regrind the road and patch up the pavement. They managed to finish before the morning commute. No one was injured and no cars were damaged.

Evacuations of nearby homes were not necessary. The eastbound tanker had swerved to avoid a car that cut in front of it in slow-moving traffic, causing it to veer off to the side and topple over.

The State Patrol cited the truck driver, Robert Powell, 44, of Renton, an employee of Lee & Eastes Tank Lines Inc. of Seattle, for "speeding too fast for conditions of the road," which essentially means he was going faster than the posted speed limit. This means Lee & Eastes will now have to pay for the damages.

So far, the bill amounts to $12,000 for road repair and $10,000 for the environmental cleanup. But those who witnessed the accident called him a hero and credited him for his quick thinking. The smoke could be seen miles away. They said he was able to maneuver the rig so it did not collide with any other cars.

Many believe he put his own life on the line, working to get the fiery tanker a safe distance from traffic. Powell was driving a double tractor-trailer rig, and each tanker reportedly carried about 5,000 gallons of gasoline.

The front tanker did not ignite. but when the second trailer overturned and ignited, it turned into an inferno on Front Street exit in Issaquah, Wash., disrupting traffic for hours.

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