Fiery Crash Closes I-95 In Conn.

This photo taken Dec. 3, 2009 shows musician and founder of Meat-Free Monday Sir Paul McCartney talking to the media during a press conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. McCartney, along with Harrison Ford and Reese Witherspoon, will be one of the presenters at the 67th Golden Globe Awards. (AP Photo/Thierry Charlier)
AP Photo/Thierry Charlier
A fiery tanker truck crash that melted a bridge and closed a mile-long stretch of the major interstate highway between New York and Boston, and officials say it will likely remain closed for weeks.

The truck carrying 12,000 gallons of fuel oil collided with a car Thursday night on Interstate 95 in Bridgeport, Conn., sparking a huge fire that severely damaged both sides of the overpass where the accident happened. The truck driver and a firefighter were slightly injured.

"From the standpoint of personal injuries, we got off lucky. The bad news is this may take a good 10 to 14 days to fix," said Gov. John G. Rowland.

Witnesses said they heard explosions and saw a gigantic fireball shoot into the sky. Traffic was backed up for miles in both directions on the stretch of highway that handles nearly 120,000 vehicles a day.

"This is a total disaster as far as traffic's concerned," said Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi.

"It's going to be a pain in the neck," agreed Rowland.

The fire was so hot it damaged the steel support beams that carry both sides of the highway over an avenue, authorities said. The overpass, which was new, sagged several feet.

"The southbound lane of the highway has sagged 3-4 feet, and there is also some damage to the northbound lane. It appears that this highway will not be able to be used for an extended period of time," said Bridgeport Fire Chief Michael Maglione.

"At the height of the heat, the actual bridge almost touched the ground, it went down so far, and then as the firefighters poured water and foam on the fire, it contracted, and it left that buckling effect," Rowland told reporters Friday morning.

The truck's driver was treated at a hospital and released, and a firefighter who was overcome by fumes was hospitalized for observation.

For the short period, Rowland said, the avenue beneath I-95 will just be closed off to get the interstate open again.

"The plan frankly is to just literally cut the sections out, remove those sections, and rather than try to rebuild a bridge area, it looks like we'll try to build up the bottom and make it an actual road," he said.

Meanwhile, wrecker crews were removing the burned hulk of the tanker Friday morning, while commuters and others looked for other ways to travel. The Metro North commuter railroad said all its equipment was already in service, but express trains would make local stops to pick up the expected extra commuters. Traffic was diverted onto local roads and some passenger cars were using the nearly-parallel Merit Parkway, but trucks are not permitted on that highway.