A liquid propane tanker exploded on an Indianapolis highway ramp on Thursday, shooting a fireball of flames and black smoke into the sky and closing a section of one of the city’s major expressways for what could be weeks.
The tanker’s driver, Ronald J. Tobias, 73, of Syracuse, Ind., was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, state police said. Three others received minor injuries and seven other vehicles were damaged by the explosion, police said.
“We seen a big massive fireball like you wouldn’t believe,” Lonnie Hood, who was working nearby the highway ramp, told WTHR-TV. “It was a massive explosion. It just roared in my chest. It was unreal.”
He said he and another man helped pull the driver out of the burning tanker.
“Me and another guy pulled him out of there and just drug him down the road here and his whole truck blew up,” Hood said.
Other witnesses said they had to put their cars in reverse to escape the flames, which charred billboards and a cellular phone tower.
“People near the explosion got out of their cars and ran from the scene,” witness Sage Kopronica told WISH-TV.
Lawrence Township Fire Marshal Dick Groves said the “humongous” explosion happened after the truck rolled, with the cab and tanker separating and catching fire underneath an Interstate 465 bridge. He said the fireball could be seen and the heat felt two miles away.
“The flames were licking the bridge all around it,” Groves said.
The explosion closed Interstates 69 and 465 on the northeast side of the city.
I-69 reopened after two hours, but State Police Sgt. Anthony Emery said I-465 would remain closed for repairs. A pillar holding up the east side of the I-465 overpass was knocked over, and two steel girders on the west side of the overpass also sustained damage, he said.
“We’re not talking hours, we’re talking weeks” for repairs, Emery said.
Indiana Department of Transportation engineers were inspecting the bridges and surrounding roadways on Thursday for possible damage.
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