WASHINGTON — One person was killed and four others were injured when a gasoline tanker-truck exploded in a high-speed crash Thursday on the Capital Beltway that rings Washington.
The wreck, the second major accident on the road in as many weeks involving hazardous materials, closed traffic for four hours on both loops of the expressway, officials said. It created rush-hour congestion that backed up for several miles and spilled over into secondary roads.
The crash occurred when the tanker hit the rear of a van, crossed a median wall, then burst into flames as it slammed into oncoming traffic, police and fire officials said.
Fueled by nearly 3,000 gallons of gasoline, flames and smoke from the explosion shot high into the air in a fire that burned for more than two hours. About 2,000 gallons of fuel leaked from the truck and into a roadside drainage ditch, but firefighters were able to contain it with a dirt barricade.
In the moments after the crash, the highway was a tableau of chaos and panic, witnesses said, as motorists raced from their cars while flames from the explosion spewed over a wide area.