Impaired driver may have caused jet fuel tanker wreck and fire

Police in Federal Way, Washington say drugs or alcohol were likely to blame for a fatal three-vehicle pileup there over the weekend involving a double-tanker truck full of jet fuel. At least 8,000 gallons spilled and caught fire, burning for more than a day and thwarting firefighters’ efforts to douse the 1,000-degree-plus flames. The 68 year old truck driver died at the scene.

Investigators say the disaster was touched off by an allegedly impaired 21 year-old driver who hit a barrier wall about 2:30 AM on Sunday. A second vehicle hit the first, and then the tanker came down the road. The driver was unable to stop, struck the first two cars, and the rig rolled over. The tanks were punctured and the jet fuel poured out onto the highway where it burst into flames. The alleged drunk driver was taken to jail for investigation of vehicular homicide. Two people in the second car were hospitalized.

Authorities had to call in aircraft crash trucks from the Seattle airport and the nearby Boeing Corporation to help smother the fire with special foam. Pictures from the scene show towering, white-hot flames melting the highway and scorching a highway sound barrier wall. After the fire was put out, all that remained of the tankers were some melted steel and puddles of aluminum. Puddles of fuel continued to flare up more thanĀ 24 hours after the crash. It will take days to decontaminate the site and repair the damage to Interstate 5, a major north-south artery.

Source: Tacoma News Tribune, “3-vehicle crash in Federal Way kills tanker driver,” Alexis Krell, Nov. 4, 2012