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I-95 Philadelphia: Large truck fire causes roadway collapse near Cottman Avenue exit

I-95 collapse in Philadelphia: Cousin remembers truck driver killed
I-95 collapse in Philadelphia: Cousin remembers truck driver killed 02:32

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A portion of Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia collapsed Sunday morning after a large vehicle fire. The fire started under the overpass near the Cottman Avenue exit around 6:30 a.m., police said.  

A commercial truck carrying a petroleum-based product was the source of the fire and brought down an entire portion of the northbound lanes, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said.

The tanker was holding 8,500 gallons of gasoline when it caught fire, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.  

The southbound side of the interstate is not structurally sound, Shapiro said. Demolition is underway of the collapsed northbound lanes and the damaged southbound lanes.

Flames could be seen shooting up from the roadway Sunday morning. Thick black smoke filled the sky and traffic was stopped in that area.   


Residents in the area of the collapse can follow updates from PennDOT on their website. 

Human remains were recovered Monday at the scene of the fire where the collapse happened, officials said. Authorities officialy identified the driver two days after the collapse as Nathan Moody of Merchantville, New Jersey. He was a father of three. 

The Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office ruled Moody's death an accident and said he died due to blunt trauma of the head, inhalation and thermal injuries.  

Isaac Moody
Chopper 3 overhead I-95 collapse 02:12

What part of I-95 is closed? 

A six-mile stretch of I-95 is closed in both directions between Academy Road (Exit 32) and Aramingo Avenue (Exit 26).

The fuel tanker caught on fire near the I-95 Cottman Avenue off-ramp.

This area of I-95, according to federal transportation records, carries 160,000 vehicles a day on average, and is a main arterial roadway in the U.S. that goes north and south along the east coast, Michael Carroll, the deputy managing director for transportation in Philadelphia, said. 

Flames could be seen shooting up from the roadway Sunday morning. Thick black smoke filled the sky and traffic was stopped in that area.   

Tumar Alexander from the City of Philadelphia Managing Director's Office said it will be a long time to address this roadway collapse.

Detour Options/ How to get around I-95 closure

Drivers are being asked to avoid the area. Those who were on the interstate near the collapse Sunday were forced to turn around.

CBS News Traffic Reporter Chandler Lutz said this is going to cause major traffic issues for the foreseeable future. 

RELATED: Best detours to avoid Philadelphia I-95 bridge collapse road closure

Lutz said Exit 27 was closed off, which is the Bridge St/ Harbison Ave exit, as part of the I-95 reconstruction project.   

Roosevelt Boulevard (Route 1) is your best bet to get around the road closure, Lutz said. Torresdale Avenue is also an alternate route.

If you're heading into New Jersey, you can use the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 130 or I-295. The Ben Franklin Bridge is back open after it was temporarily shut down Sunday morning due to a bike-a-thon event. If you're traveling northbound on I-95, you can still use the Betsy Ross Bridge exit (Exit 26). However, if you're traveling from the Betsy Ross to I-95, that area is blocked off.

Those who planned to travel on I-95 south should consider the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey.

Philly Mayor Jim Kenney said residents can also expect delays to SEPTA bus routes in the area. 

Detours around I-95 fire, road collapse 04:12

Public Transportation

SEPTA has put in place a service plan to support transportation needs in the Philly area until further notice.

Complimentary parking at Philadelphia Parking Authority-operated lots at SEPTA train stations will be available until further notice: 

  • Fern Rock Rail Station Lot - 10th Street & Nedro Avenue
  • Fox Chase Rail Station Lot - 500 Rhawn Street
  • Torresdale Rail Station Lot - 4900 Grant Avenue
SEPTA adding extra service to alleviate traffic after I-95 collapse 02:37

School Impacts

Meanwhile, the School District of Philadelphia is operating on a normal schedule. The district says late arrivals by any student or staff due to the I-95 closure will be excused.

Avoid manholes in the area 

Several explosions were also heard in the area, sending manhole tops "flipping like coins" into the air, CBS News Philadelphia reporter Madeline Wright said.

Philly's drinking water not impacted 

Philadelphia's drinking water has not been impacted due to the collapse and fire after gasoline leaked

Shapiro said some of the spill made it into the entry of the waterway, but "there's no threat to anyone's drinking water and no threat to the water." He said it was contained by booms that were put up. 

"Currently at this time we have no concerns of any environmental impact to our water intakes at the Baxter water treatment plant," Brendan Riley, the director of water operations at the Philadelphia Water Department, said. "There was a lot of coordination with the Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard as well as PennDOT to make sure we responded appropriately."

Air Quality Concerns

Winds were blowing off to the north, which will carry the smoke toward the north and east. 

The fire is adding dangerous chemicals -- such as acids, sulfates and nitrates -- into the air, which are very dangerous to breathe in. Particulate matter, such as metals, soot, dust, tar and oil, are also posing air quality concerns.  

Meteorologist Tammie Souza said you may notice a greasy, oily film on things from the huge smoke plume. 

She said that if you're to the north or east, it is recommended to stay indoors, as the region was also expected to already have unhealthy air quality levels Sunday due to smoke from the Canadian wildfire that we have been experiencing all week.

Philadelphia air quality concerns due to I-95 fire 02:18

Collapse affecting trash pickup

The Philadelphia Streets Department said residents in the Northeast should "expect delays" in trash and recycling collections. 

Residents in the area should continue to set their materials out as usual on their regular trash day, but the Streets Department is assessing the impact on sanitation trucks traveling in the area of the collapse to see if drivers will have to use alternate routes.  

Assessing the damage/cleanup

As of 7:30 a.m. Sunday, officials said the fire was out but crews remain at the site as a precaution. 

Crews are working to assess the damage left behind and will be there 24/7, Shapiro's office said. 

Steel and concrete rubble are most of what remains of the tanker truck. It is believed that only one vehicle, a gas tanker truck, was caught under the hundreds of tons of rubble that came down after the truck crashed and exploded beneath I-95, sources said Monday, adding that the tanker truck's GPS stopped moving at the time of the explosion. 

PennDOT secretary Mike Carroll says the rebuilding of the overpass will happen over stages.

First crews are working to tear down the charred remains of the southbound side of the overpass. That will take four to five days. Then, they'll start rebuilding it, which could take several months. 

ALSO SEE: What we know about the tanker truck driver

Demolition underway after I-95 collapse in Philadelphia 02:40

1996 Tire Fire

In 1996, there was an eerily similar incident near Bridge Street when an arsonist started a massive tire fire that closed the highway for weeks and caused a transportation nightmare in the Philadelphia area. 

I-95 collapse reminiscent of tire fire in Port Richmond in 1996 00:37

Local and Federal Response

Shapiro said he was briefed on the incident and is coordinating with partners in Philadelphia, New Jersey, as well as the federal government.

Shapiro said the full rebuild of I-95 will take "some number of months."

"We expect it to take that time, and we will have that specific timeline set forth once the engineers and PennDOT have completed their review," Shapiro said. 

Gov. Josh Shapiro, local officials provide update on I-95 collapse in Philadelphia 17:32

Shapiro said he plans to issue a disaster declaration to expedite the process and use federal funds to rebuild the interstate. 

Shapiro spoke directly with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bob Casey, Congressman Brendan Boyle and other federal officials. Buttigieg will visit the site Tuesday. 

"All of our federal partners have pledged a complete and total support and assistance as we create alternate routes and as we rebuild I-95," Shapiro said. "Secretary Buttigieg has assured me that there will be absolutely no delay in getting federal funds deployed to quickly help us rebuild this critical artery."

Shapiro said his chief of staff has also been in communication with White House officials. 


Kenney said he is grateful for the city's first responders in helping keep everyone safe.  

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to conduct a safety investigation on the tanker fire and collapse. The NTSB says a preliminary report is expected in two to three weeks.

The agency said it's working with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Is the collapse impacting businesses? 

Businesses up and down Princeton Avenue in Tacony said Monday was day one of a new normal as local road closures continue.   

Princeton Avenue is one of several local roads still shut down following the I-95 collapse. 

"It slows everything down, it causes chaos for even the neighbors and everybody that lives here and for people that I have to go to work and come back to work schools, it throws everybody off," Monika Gull, the owner of  Xtreme Auto Body and Paint shop, said. 

Down the street, Princeton Cycles is also feeling the impact of the interstate closure. The motorcycle shop doesn't plan on re-opening until business is back to normal while the road in front of it remains blocked off by officers. 

"It's going to really impact our business. We're not going to make enough money to pay the bills," Carly Ertell said. 

Tacony businesses impacted by I-95 collapse 02:43

Traffic has also been especially tough in the neighborhoods surrounding the collapse -- where north-south arteries like Torresdale Avenue have seen an influx of cars – something that's taken a toll on some local businesses like New Station Pizza in Mayfair.

"Look how many deliveries that are staying on top of the oven that are waiting for the driver to come back," Anthony Zaki, the owner of New Station Pizza, said.  

 Zaki says delivery times are now more than an hour 

"What normal is half an hour... at least double you can see outside here you can barely move around," Zaki said.  

Meanwhile, over on Frankford Avenue, Oteri's Italian Bakery says while some regulars are shopping at their sister locations, others who may not normally be in the neighborhood are stopping in.

"It could definitely help us the more people that drive by they see a bakery a lot of people have a sweet tooth they might come in," Cecily Jewels, of Oteri's, said.

Small businesses around I-95 in Philadelphia collapse feeling the impact 01:50
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