I-69 and Interstates/Highways and Commuting and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

I-69 reopens; I-465 still closed following explosion

October 22, 2009

Indiana State Police are cautioning motorists to steer clear of Interstates 465 and 69 on the northeast side of Indianapolis this evening following a propane tanker explosion Thursday morning that closed the roadways.

I-69 reopened within a few hours of the incident, but I-465 is expected to remain closed for repairs for an indefinite period, State Police Sgt. Anthony Emery said at about 3:45 p.m. on Thursday. 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.

“If they can just avoid this area altogether, that is the best advice we can give them,” Emery said.

The closings were caused by a liquid propane tanker that exploded on a highway ramp at I-69 and I-465, 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.

Stretches of I-465 will remain closed in both directions until inspectors determine that the overpasses are safe, Emery said. 

The tanker's driver was taken to a hospital with injuries that didn't appear to be life threatening, said Lawrence Township Fire Marshal Dick Groves. The driver of a vehicle that was behind the truck when it exploded was taken to a hospital with severe burns.

"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.

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.

 

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