I-74 re-opens after repair from tragic tanker crash

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Interstate 74 re-opened around 7:30 a.m. Friday morning after crews spent the night repairing a section of the road that was damaged when a fuel truck overturned and caught fire Thursday afternoon.  The interstate opened ahead of schedule after crews worked overnight to complete the work.

Crews have been working overnight to reopen Interstate 74 in Shelby County after the driver of a fuel tanker died in a fiery crash that shut down the road Thursday afternoon.

The remediation includes clearing diesel fuel from the ditch where the tanker spilled part of its load, and to pave an area of roadway between 200 and 300 feet in length with new asphalt.

The crash, which resulted in a huge fire that damaged the pavement, shut down I-74 in both directions for several hours. The fuel tanker and a passenger vehicle were involved, and both vehicles were destroyed by fire.

It happened at around 3:15 pm just east of the 104 mile marker north of Shelbyville in the eastbound lanes.

Westbound lanes were back open by 6:00 pm. Eastbound traffic was still being diverted at London Road.

Originally, paving crews estimated eastbound traffic would be allowed to travel through the area around noon Friday.  The overnight work may allow that to happen earlier, according to pavers who spoke to Eyewitness News Friday morning.

Indiana State Police say that the tanker and a car were eastbound in adjacent lanes. State troopers say evidence gathered at the scene and witness statements show the semi was in the right lane, next to a Chevrolet Impala driven by 71-year-old Tharen White of Carmel, when it crossed the center line and side-swiped White's car.

The driver of the semi, 46-year-old Daniel Martin of Bloomington, overcorrected the tractor to the right, drove across the roadway and struck a guard rail. Martin steered back to the left, crossing the roadway again, and slid sideways into the median. The tanker trailer flipped over and landed on the eastbound lanes of the interstate, catching fire.

Martin was unable to escape and died at the scene. White's vehicle came to rest next to the semi, but he was able to get out before his car became engulfed in flames and was not injured.

"I live a half-mile away and I looked out the window and could see it for miles and miles. Everything was on fire, engulfed. Caught on fire, big 'BOOM! BOOM!'," said Chase Alexander. "I've lived out here for over 25 years and never saw anything this bad and there's a lot of wrecks on this stretch of road right here."

The Indiana Department of Transportation says the tanker was fully involved in flames at one point, causing a huge plume of smoke that could be seen for miles. The state highway department was called in because of damage to the highway resulting from the fire.

INDOT's Nathan Riggs says they're still evaluating the extent of damage to the road surface. He says it's possible that a section of the roadway will have to be repaved if it was exposed to "significant flame for a significant period."

Before crews could get to work on fixing the highway Thursday night, they had to restore the berm alongside the road.

The twisted, charred remnants of the semi were cleared from the scene on a flatbed trailer late Thursday evening. A front loader cleared the rest of debris off of the road, so crews could start to work on fixing the eastbound lanes.

Other crews used industrial vacuum trucks to clean spilled diesel fuel from the ditch next to the interstate.

Several INDOT personnel were at the scene, assisting Indiana State Police and other officers with backed up traffic.

Fire crews worked to put out flames on both sides of the highway, as well as the vehicle fires.

EMA director Mike Schantz says crews have contained hazardous materials from the crash. The containment site is a ditch adjacent to the highway. He did not identify the substance. State Emergency Management personnel are also at the scene.

Eastbound traffic is being detoured onto London Road at the 105 mile marker, then south on North Michigan Road to the 109 mile marker, where it is being routed back onto I-74.

With all eastbound traffic shut down, cars and trucks packed narrow frontage roads Thursday night, going slow toward Cincinnati.

"It's really congested back there," said one driver.

See all traffic updates here.