HARRISBURG — A section of Interstate 81 near Harrisburg was expected to remain closed in both directions for the next several days after a tanker truck fully loaded with diesel fuel overturned Thursday morning and exploded into flames, sending black smoke billowing into the sky.
Officials said the crash occurred on an on-ramp to Route 22-322, where the ramp curls back over the interstate and runs under another section of Route 22-322. They said the intense heat buckled steel beams on the top section and damaged it so badly there were fears it could collapse and fall onto I-81.
“There really could not have been a worse spot for this to have occurred,” state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch told reporters.
State police said the driver, Thomas Uecker, 52, of Dover, Pa., was treated at a hospital for minor injuries. The truck was registered to Tameric Enterprises LLC in Carlisle.
A disaster emergency proclamation that Gov. Tom Corbett signed following the tanker truck fire will allow the state to seek federal aid for some of the more than $10 million in damages.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is waiving tolls for motorists who drive between the Carlisle and Harrisburg East exits as an alternative to Interstate 81.
Motorists must take a ticket at one exit and present it at the other to get the free tolls.