Truck Carrying 35,000 Pounds of Explosives Blows Up On Utah Highway

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A tractor-trailer carrying 35,500 pounds of explosives overturned and exploded on a Utah highway, injuring at least 19 people.

The explosion left a giant crater, estimated to be 70 feet wide and 30 feet deep, on U.S. 6 about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City and forced the two-lane highway's closure in both directions.

Several small fires were started by the explosion and flying debris.

''The entire road is gone, shoulder to shoulder, there's no asphalt left,'' said Tom Hudachko, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman.

Witnesses said the truck's driver appeared to lose control of the vehicle after taking a curve at high speed, Highway Patrol Lt. Doug McCleve said.

The driver, Travis Stewart, 30, was flown to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he was in fair condition, spokesman Chris Nelson said.

Troy Lysfjord, 37, was lying down in the back of the cab when the accident occurred. He told The Salt Lake Tribune that he helped Stewart out of his seat belt and they climbed out of the cab with the help of nearby motorists.

By that time, between 20 and 30 people had gathered around the wreckage to help and Lysfjord said he shouted, ''It's explosives! Get out of here.''

''I was close enough that it literally picked me up off my feet and threw me on the ground,'' he told the newspaper. ''I felt it literally all the way through me.''

Lysfjord was in fair condition at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo and was expected to be released Thursday.

At least 19 other people were treated for injuries at various hospitals. Others may have been injured but sought medical care on their own, authorities said.

J.D. Herbert of Denver said the explosion blew him off his motorcycle.

''It's truly just a powerful force,'' he told Salt Lake City television station KUTV.

He described seeing ''a mushroom cloud of fire, and shrapnel just starts falling down. The shrapnel is hitting the forest, and crackling like bacon,'' said Herbert, the nephew of Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.

The rig from R&R Trucking of Duenweg, Mo., had just left commercial explosives maker Ensign-Bickford Co. at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon when the accident happened. The truck was headed to Oklahoma, company officials said. They wouldn't say what kind of explosives the truck was carrying.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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