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California road tanker crash and inferno kills driver and leads to evacuation of 200

24 May 2017

A tanker truck full of fuel overturned and exploded near Merced in northern California on May 23, killing the driver and prompting the temporary evacuation of 200 local residents, local media said. The tanker was carrying 41,000 litres of gasoline when it crashed in Atwater on Highway 99 on its way to delivering the fuel to an area gas station, according to a fire official.

Stock image
Stock image

Multiple explosions could be heard a short distance away at a nearby fast food restaurant, as panicked customers and restaurant employees scrambled outside, video from the scene showed.

The blasts caused a massive inferno that sent thick plumes of black smoke into the sky that could be seen up to 8 miles away, a local TV station reported. Investigators believe the truck was going too fast when it left the highway, the station reported, citing the California Highway Patrol. The tanker hit a concrete divider and overturned. The fuel then began to spill and ignited soon after.

The truck was completely destroyed in the fire, and the incinerated remains could be seen on the charred roadway in the aftermath, aerial video over the scene showed.

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