Driver killed as tanker truck crashes, burns in Cherry Hill

June 13, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The driver of a tanker truck carrying 9,000 gallons of gasoline died yesterday after the tanker crashed and overturned in Cherry Hill, bursting into flames that shot 150 feet into the air, officials said.

The Fleet Transit tractor-trailer rig was traveling west in the 3300 block of Waterview Ave. about 5 a.m. when it failed to negotiate a curve. The truck hit the curb, overturned and struck a utility pole, said Agent Martin Bartness, a police spokesman.

The tank ruptured and the fuel exploded, Bartness said. Police had not identified the driver, whose body was severely burned.

Firefighters arrived at the scene but could do little to stop the flames, said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman. The fire was too intense to try to rescue the driver, he said.

"When we arrived, it was totally engulfed," Torres said. Firefighters decided to let the gasoline burn itself off rather than risk causing gasoline to flow into the nearby Patapsco River. "Extinguishing the fire would have probably created a spill of gasoline into waterways," he said.

The fire, which stopped burning about 7:30 a.m., sent a column of smoke over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge but did not create any traffic hazards, officials said.

Officials at Fleet Transit Inc. in the 3200 block of Tate St. declined to answer questions yesterday.

Joe Heller, manager of the Middle Branch Marina in the 3100 block of Waterview Ave., said he arrived at work about 5:30 a.m. and saw flames shooting above nearby radio towers.

"You could feel the heat 100 yards away," Heller said. "The tank melted. The power lines across the street melted. There wasn't much left of it, only the truck's frame."

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