Fiery Crash Closes Part of I-95 in Connecticut

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- A fiery tanker-truck crash that melted a bridge and closed a mile-long stretch of Interstate 95 between New York and Boston will likely snarl traffic for up to two weeks, Gov. John G. Rowland said Friday.

The truck was carrying 12,000 gallons of fuel oil when it collided with a car Thursday night, sparking a huge fire that severely damaged an overpass section of the highway. The truck driver and a firefighter were slightly injured.

State troopers remained at the scene early Friday, and no cause for the wreck was immediately available.

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 I-95, which handles nearly 120,000 vehicles a day.

State police Sgt. J. Paul Vance said the highway would be closed indefinitely between two exits in Bridgeport as engineers determine whether the overpass, which was new, must be completely rebuilt.

``It's going to be a pain in the neck,'' Rowland said Friday morning after surveying the scene.

Just rebuilding the melted section of overpass will take at least 10 days, Rowland said, and a few more days will be needed to make other repairs.

Rowland said the work would begin immediately and could cost up to $4 million. Rowland said he would declare a state of emergency, making the project eligible for some federal funding.

Art Greuhn, chief engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said crews would begin bridge demolition Friday.

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 sagged several feet.

``Once it sagged, it made a pool of burning fuel oil,'' said Wallace Thomas, Bridgeport's deputy fire chief. The fire was contained after nearly three hours.

The historic Merritt Parkway, which parallels I-95, was named as an alternate route, but commercial trucks cannot use it because of its low bridges.

State officials urged motorists, especially tractor-trailer drivers, to avoid I-95 and the Bridgeport area until the highway is fixed.

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