ARNOLD, MO (KTVI) - Two tractor trailer wrecks on I-55 kept crews busy Thursday afternoon.
The first incident happened on I-55 at Butler Hill Road in south St. Louis County, shortly after noon. According to Sgt. Al Nothum with Missouri Highway Patrol, a tractor trailer containing some type of oxidizer, which is a hazardous material, caught fire in a northbound lane. The fire was put out, but later reignited.
Then, at around 1:30 this afternoon, on I-55 at 141, also in a northbound lane, Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey says traffic from the first wreck caused a tractor trailer to rear-end another tractor trailer. An explosion caused by the collision sent smoke billowing into the air.
The driver of the first truck, a UPS truck, was able to escape, but the driver of the other truck unfortunately died at the scene.
Witness Alyssa Leuschke says, “It’s very traumatic. I feel bad that I couldn’t have done anything, but it exploded on impact. Nobody could’ve done anything. I saw people running over there and I know they were going to try and help, but it was too late already.”
Rock Community Fire Protection District Spokesperson Ron Harder adds, “One of our engine companies was right here in the area as the call was being dispatched, they saw the heavy fire and smoke and were able to get on the scene immediately and start putting some water on it, however the severe heat was really against us from the beginning, and when you’re on the highway, water is of a minimum.” Harder says several firefighters were overcome by the heat, and had to be put in a rehabilitation area.
These wrecks have also been a challenge for drivers trying to get to their destinations, dealing with closures on northbound I-55 from Richardson Road to I-270, while accident reconstruction crews worked to finish their investigation.