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I-70 open both directions after fiery crash involving tanker truck and SUV killed 1 person

Cleanup work mostly complete after fiery crash on I-70 in Colorado involving SUV and tanker truck
Cleanup work mostly complete after fiery crash on I-70 in Colorado involving SUV and tanker truck 03:11

Both directions of Interstate 70 were open again Thursday night after a crash involving an SUV and a tanker truck in the breakdown lane west of the Morrison exit. One person was in the SUV and killed. 

There were miles of traffic backups in both directions late Thursday morning as a result. 

The crash happened just before 9:30 a.m. and involved the tanker truck and one other vehicle. According to Colorado State Patrol Golden, the tanker was parked on the side of the interstate after it had overheated when the vehicle crashed into the back of the trailer. 

In addition to the death, authorities said the driver of the truck was taken to the hospital. His injuries were minor.  There was no information about the identity of the driver Thursday night the State Patrol said. Nor was there any information yet available on why that driver was in the breakdown lane before the crash. The vehicle may have been a Nissan, said Trooper Gabriel Moltrer. 

Colorado authorities provide update on fiery fatal Interstate 70 crash 09:52

"I noticed a huge plume of black smoke," one commuter told CBS News Colorado. "Off in the distance and was a little worried what that could be... then the traffic came to a standstill."

The impact caused fuel to spill through a culvert and across the eastbound lanes of I-70. CDOT experts looked at the damage before re-opening.

CBS News Colorado's helicopter flew over the scene soon after the crash and firefighters could be seen spraying the charred remains of the vehicle that collided with the back of the tanker to extinguish the fire. The tanker was pulled to the side of the lane closest to the median of the separated portion of I-70 near Morrison Road. A large portion of the interstate was blackened.

According to the Jeffco Sheriff's Office, the tanker was fully engulfed when crews were called to the scene. 

Fire crews were also seen spraying a portion of charred brush off the side of the interstate near where the tanker was engulfed in flames. 

"It was a very hot fire putting off a lot of toxic, black thick smoke," said Arvada Fire spokesman Brady Johnson.  

An image from CBS News Colorado viewer Kevin K. showing the tanker fire and black plume of smoke rising from the crash that closed I-70 west of Denver near Morrison.  Kevin K.

One delivery driver, who spoke with CBS News Colorado off-camera, said that he tried to drive his vehicle through the initial crash. As he took his van over the fuel spilling into the fast lanes of the interstate, his own car caught fire. 

He was able to extinguish the flames but was left without a tow truck or support as the interstate shut down on both ends. 

Eastbound lanes were closed due to a spillover of fuel which led to fire engulfing areas away from the highway. 

"So [the eastbound lane closure] [was] due to the fire that went through a culvert," Colorado State Trooper Gabriel Moltrer explained. "So you have to make sure that it did not compromise the road from where the culverts are located, causing any type of road deformity."

"You have a fire compression component," said Johnson. "You have a medical component with taking care of the patient. You have a hazardous materials component and a wildland firefighting component."

A black plume of smoke from the crash scene could be seen across the Denver metro area just after 9:30 a.m.

Both directions of I-70 were closed from Exit 254 - US 40 to Genesee and US 6 for more than seven hours until eastbound lanes reopened about 4:30 p.m. Westbound lanes opened after 6:00 p.m.


"Our CDOT crews are out there helping with the effort. They are out there as part of the road closure trying to keep things as safe and secure as possible. They are out there working alongside with our other emergency responders," CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said.

With high school graduations happening on Thursday and the first truly good weather of the year, it became a long slog to wade through the traffic. 

As one told CBS News Colorado, "just don't even know what direction to go from this point right?"

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