Fiery Blast Kills 5 on I-95 in Maryland

ELKRIDGE, Md. (AP) -- Authorities reopened the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 early Wednesday after a fiery explosion killed five, tied up traffic for hours and left debris from mangled vehicles scattered over a major East Coast highway.

The crash occurred at 3 p.m. Tuesday when a tanker carrying flammable material plunged off an overpass on Interstate 895, landing in the northbound lane of I-95, said Cpl. Rob Moroney of the Maryland State Police.

``There's still a lot of work to be done in reconstructing the accident scene. Until that work is completed, we don't know the cause of the accident or the crash,'' Cpl. Greg Prioleau said in a press conference early Wednesday.

Five vehicles burned down to their frames, said Gary McLhinney, chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority police. The tanker, two tractor trailers and two passenger vehicles were involved in the crash, located about six miles southwest of the city of Baltimore.

Police suspect one victim was in each car, though their findings were still preliminary. None of the victims had been identified.

The southbound lanes of I-95 opened Tuesday evening. The I-895 overpass opened early Wednesday, after officials deemed it structurally sound.

McLhinney said it appeared that nothing forced the tanker truck off the road and it did not appear to have swerved to avoid debris or another vehicle on the overpass.

A team of seven investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was at the site. Investigators used hydraulic jaws and other equipment to pry apart the tangle of charred vehicles, said William Mould, a Howard County fire department spokesman.

``It's almost like looking at a junkyard, with parts of vehicles piled on top of each other,'' Mould said. ``With the foam piled on top of that, it's going to take a bit of time.''

Foam sprayed by firefighters covered all lanes of northbound I-95 and layered a white coating over mangled vehicles. The earth and grass on the east side of the road were scorched.

``The people in the cars never had a chance,'' said Dwane Roberts, a Baltimore truck driver who saw the tanker crash onto the road below.