Indianapolis Cargo Truck Fire-Serious Burn Victims
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Fire roared through a cargo truck Tuesday on
a busy freeway, injuring more than a dozen members of the painting
crew inside, some of them critically.
The truck was southbound on Interstate 465 near Indianapolis
International Airport when the fire began.
The flames started when a cigarette ignited fumes from paint
thinner or lacquer thinner, which burst into flames, said Michael
Olinger, medical director of Wishard Ambulance Service.
Motorists reported seeing a cargo door at the rear of the truck
open and occupants making the choice between jumping onto the
highway from the moving truck or getting badly burned.
Some stopped to help the victims. Witnesses said the fire burned
the clothes and shoes off some of the painters and left their skin
Wishard Memorial Hospital received six victims. Five were listed
in critical condition and one in serious condition Tuesday evening.
Some had second and third-degree burns over 90 percent of their
Seven more people went to Methodist Hospital, and three were
listed in critical condition. The conditions of the other four were
"It's going to be a long-term recovery in the burn ward. And
depending on how many skin grafts are needed, we're looking at a
considerable amount of time at the hospital and potentially some
fatalities," Olinger said.
Eight of the 13 patients are on ventilators, he said.
Four people riding in the cab were unhurt.
The victims' identities were not immediately known, state police
The truck's driver, Gary Smith, initially heard a commotion
coming from the back of the truck. He and the three other riders in
the cab at first thought the riders in the back were fighting,
When Smith pulled over, he realized the truck was on fire.
The truck belonged to RPT Painting Co. of Franklin. Everyone
inside was an employee of the company. When the flames were put
out, only a scorched shell of the vehicle remained.
The fire caused a 10-mile backup in the southbound lanes of
I-465 during the afternoon rush hour.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)