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Tanker Flips in Freeway Tunnel; One Killed

By City News Service

A tanker truck flipped and caught fire in a tunnel beneath a major freeway interchange north of downtown Los Angeles today, causing a major traffic jam, fuel spill into the Los Angeles River and a hazardous smoke scare. One person was killed.

The fire was reported at 10:31 a.m., and by 11:10 CHP officers reported one dead person was inside a tunnel at the interchange of the Golden State (5) and Glendale (2) freeways. Drivers were fleeing heavy smoke by driving the wrong way on freeways, CHP officers said.

About a quarter mile away, a large flow of flammable liquid was spotted emerging from a storm drain into the Los Angeles River, and it was observed by a fire helicopter pilot flowing about one mile downstream from there.

The liquid had been washed into flood control pipes by firefighting efforts, and officials worried about "backdraft conditions" where the volatile mixture was flowing out of the pipe. Storm drains were becoming pressurized with flammable liquid and water, and firefighters called for police to move people back should an explosion occur.

The now-closed section of the 5 Freeway handles about 292,000 vehicles per day, according to Caltrans figures, and traffic to today's 4:15 p.m. Dodgers game was expected to be heavily impacted.

Newly-opened walking paths along the L.A River were hurriedly evacuated by police.

CHP officer Ed Jacobs said the fire was triggered by a tanker truck that had flipped over in the subterranean ramp from the southbound 2 freeway to the southbound 5.

Air monitoring equipment was rushed to measure what was in the air, as the fire burned more than 55 minutes.

Firefighters originally were called to a brush fire burning in heavy landscaping along the 5 Freeway, spokesman Brian Humphrey said. Firefighters at the scene said they discovered some sort of burning tanker in the tunnel next to a Caltrans maintenance yard at Riverside Drive at Allessando Street.

Interstate 5 was closed to southbound traffic at Fletcher Boulevard, and northbound traffic was closed at Stadium Way. The southbound 2 was also closed at its Fletcher Boulevard exit, and northbound 2 was closed from its terminus at Glendale Boulevard.

That closed one of two major freeway links between downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Traffic on the parallel Hollywood (101) Freeway was quickly jammed.

Structural engineers were called in to examine the tunnel beneath the 5 Freeway, about five miles north of downtown.
Ron G. July 14, 2013 at 11:52 AM
OMG!!! A death? Are you sure? Were the facts checked before this story was posted?

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