NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A tanker truck explosion and fire in Middle Tennessee killed one person early Friday, and authorities said the southbound lanes of Interstate 65 could be closed until Monday afternoon.
Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman B.J. Doughty said the back end of a trailer carrying unleaded gasoline hit a vertical column supporting a bridge on Peytonsville Road in Franklin about 3:40 a.m.
“Somehow the tanker part got sideways and it hit the bridge with such force that it split in two,” she said. “A piece traveled down the road and exploded.”
Doughty said the Transportation Department was constructing a new bridge and interchange at the crash site. The southbound sides of both the old and new bridges will have to be demolished before the interstate can fully reopen. She said transportation officials hope the work will be complete before rush hour Monday afternoon. In the meantime, motorists will have to exit the interstate, then get back on it.
Two northbound lanes reopened Friday afternoon, but the road over the interstate will be closed for months, Doughty said. On Friday, parallel arteries were “all very, very congested,” she said.
Doughty said the southbound lanes will remain closed and the northbound lanes will shut down at 6 p.m. Friday with traffic routed on ramps.
Doughty said the state will work all weekend to take down the old bridge.
“The goal is to have the interstate back open ... by 6 a.m. Monday and southbound by no later than 2 p.m. Monday,” Doughty said.
Franklin Police have not yet publicly identified the driver who was killed but said he worked for the Edwards Oil Co. of Lawrenceburg.
Witnesses said they heard a large boom and then saw a fireball light up the sky.
“We heard two large bangs, and then we heard the fire. So we stepped out, and we saw the entire area just completely lit with flames,” witness Lonnie Spears told Nashville station News Channel 5. “The fire was just monstrous, couldn’t have ever seen anything like that before. We’ve seen a few bad accidents over the years, but nothing like this.”
It wasn’t clear what caused the crash. Authorities were investigating.