UPDATE: Late this morning, Troopers identified the man killed as Wendell Lewis, 67, of Maricopa, Arizona.
PARLEY’S CANYON, Utah (ABC4 News) – A truck driver is dead after first responders found his body inside the burned cab of his semi truck after his truck and a tanker crashed and burst into flames.
The crash happened around 10:20 p.m. Wednesday night at mile marker 139 near the Lamb’s Canyon exit on the I-80 westbound lanes in Parley’s Canyon. The crash occurred when a tanker was trying to pass the semi truck.
“One of the double tankers was trying to pass around another slower moving semi or stopped semi, we’re not sure what that status was but, as he went around that semi that semi then rolled backwards into him,” said Sgt. Jed Jorgenson with the Utah Highway Patrol.
UHP says they believe the semi lost traction and slid back, causing it to collide with the tanker. The collision ruptured the tanker causing crude oil to spill onto the roadway, that caused the explosion. They say it was a slow moving crash as the tanker was only traveling about 15-20 mph because of the snowy conditions.
The driver of the tanker was able to get out and call 911 after the accident. As multiple crews responded, because of the severity of the crash, first responders could not find the driver of the semi truck.
Once they got the fire put out they were able locate his body in the cab of the vehicle that was burned up,” said Jorgensen. “Really we don’t know how or why he got trapped in the vehicle or what happened there or if he had a medical condition prior and that’s why the truck rolled back,” said Jorgenson.
Both east and westbound lanes of I-80 were closed while crews put the fire out. Because of the crash traffic was backed up for miles and eventually had to be diverted to Provo Canyon. Two hours later, once the flames were extinguished troopers reopened the eastbound lanes along I-80 however, the westbound lanes remained closed until 9:45 a.m. — almost 12 hours after the crash — when 2 lanes were opened to allow traffic to begin moving again. Clean up at the site continued.
“Crews are working on it right now, wrecker companies are on scene, Envirocare is here to help with the clean up and so forth,” added Jorgensen.
Investigators don’t know what exactly caused the fire to start and Jorgenson said not a lot of crude oil remained on the road after the spill because most of it had burned in the fire. However, several glass bottles littered the crash site, believed to be the cargo that the semi trailer was hauling.