1 dead in fiery semi crash on West I 40 at Bushland Road
The driver of semi tractor-trailer truck that was traveling eastbound on Interstate-40 has died after the vehicle left the highway, crashed through a guard rail and plummeted to the ground between the eastbound and westbound lanes, Sgt. Cindy Barkley of the Texas Department of Safety has confirmed.
Arnold Delarosa, 48, of Mission, Texas, has been identified as the driver. DPS released his name Monday afternoon after notifying his family.
The truck crashed down onto Farm to Market 2381 shortly after 9:30 a.m. where it struck several of the cement pillars that support the overhead lanes of I-40 and burst into flames.
DPS also confirmed the truck was the only vehicle involved in the accident, and no other injuries were reported. Delarosa was pronounced dead at the scene by a Potter County Justice of the Peace.
A cause for the accident had yet to be determined, Barkley said.
The wreck was at the Bushland Rd. overpass exit near the 57 mile marker. The trailer was loaded with truck tires, which when it burned created a large, rising column of heavy, black smoke that could be seen from downtown Amarillo before crews from the nearby Potter County Fire and Rescue Bushland post arrived on the scene.
According to officials at the crash site, the initial flames rose well above the I-40 bridge and charred the concrete while melting some of the road signs on the side of the structure which indicate the clearance height for the overpass.
In addition to Potter County Fire and Rescue, crews from DPS, Amarillo Fire Department, Texas Department of Transportation and Amarillo Emergency Services were on scene to assist.
The wreckage continued to burn well past noon, while multiple times firefighters sprayed the burning debris with foam to keep the flames down.
Interstate traffic was rerouted off I-40 in both directions following the accident. Westbound traffic was forced to exit the highway at the Arnot Rd. interchange, and was then rerouted around emergency crews at Blessen Dr. along the I-40 service road.
TxDot spokeswoman Sonja Gross said Bushland Rd., also known as Farm to Market 2381, under the overpass and westbound Interstate 40 would remained closed until engineers from Austin could arrive at the scene to conduct a full inspection. Gross said the inspector was expected to arrive by Monday evening.
While waiting for the inspection, TxDOT will turn the service road into a temporary two-way street to assist in re-routing traffic.
Should the bridge need repairs, Gross said it would require closing I-40 and Farm to Market 2381 for an extended period of time as well as requiring a new traffic plan for area residents.
“We won’t know the extent of the damage until their inspection,” Gross said. “For people in Bushland, they will want to leave early to get to places on time. We will update if FM 2381 can re-open, or if there is damage and cannot re-open.”
Eastbound traffic was also rerouted off the highway to Wells Street near Bushland Elementary and Middle Schools before a single lane was reopened around 10:40 a.m.
The first clean-up crews and vehicles arrived on the scene shortly before noon, moving pieces of the charred truck and tires so that firefighters could attempt to extinguish the flames that continued to burn underneath the wreckage.
Gross also reported that as of 4 p.m., cleanup crews remained at the site, hauling pieces of the truck to a landfill and attempting to clear debris from the road.
The accident remains under investigation by DPS and the Potter County Sheriff’s Office.