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18-wheel car carrier bursts into flames, causing rush-hour standstill on I-294

Crash engulfs car hauler in flames on I-294, terrifies drivers
Crash engulfs car hauler in flames on I-294, terrifies drivers 02:09

WILLOW SPRINGS, Ill. (CBS) -- The Tri-State Tollway was mired in a traffic nightmare during the evening rush Tuesday, after a semi-trailer truck hauling cars sparked a huge fire on the Tri-State Tollway in southwest suburban Willow Springs.

As CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reported, traffic was very slow through the night along northbound I-294 near the scene. Illinois State Police said by 8:30 p.m., all lanes on I-294 had reopened following hours of cleanup.

But late in the afternoon, the fiery crash caused some intense moments for those involved – and for drivers caught in the middle. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

The thick black smoke from the wreck was visible from miles away. As she got closer, Jessica Selim said she felt the heat of the intense flames.

"You hear the car physically shaking, and it's hot," Selim said. "We heard the booms. We heard the explosions."

Illinois State Police said two vehicles were involved in the massive wreck on I-294 between La Grange and Willow Springs roads, along what is known as the Mile Long Bridge.

18-wheeled car carrier bursts into flames 01:50

One of the vehicles was a car hauler. Flames were seen shooting from the toppled-over 18-wheeler, and everything burned – including all the cars on board.

"It was terrifying," said Selim, "I mean, not only for myself, but for my son in the back."

As firefighters tried to put out the flames, rush-hour traffic came to a near standstill.

Selim, with her son int the car, chose to weave through the wreckage and heavy fire carefully.

"Mama bear instinct came in, and you know, it's just like, fight-or-flight," said Selim, "and my choice was just to get the heck out of there."

Illinois State Police have not provided any details as to what caused the crash, or how many cars the car hauler was carrying.

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