SARASOTA, FL - All northbound lanes of Interstate 75 reopened Wednesday evening after an early morning crash of a fuel tanker that overturned and shut down that side of the highway between Bee Ridge and Fruitville roads for more than 10 hours..
About 5:42 Wednesday morning, the tanker was southbouond, crossed into the northbound lanes and crashed, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, spilling 7,600 gallons of gasoline -- nearly the tanker's entire load.
The tanker driver, Thomas Grattan, 71, of Brooksville, was taken to Blake Medical Center with critical injuries, FHP said.
At one point, the traffic trying to head north stretches to the south for about five miles south of Bee Ridge Road and traffic heading south was slow, too.
A tanker crash closes I-75 for hours in Sarasota.
"Once they lose control you have one opportunity to make a correction in that size of the vehicle unfortunately he was unable to do that," says Trooper Ken Watson.
Troopers say Grattan had just started his work day filled the truck with 8,700 gallons of fuel and headed south.
"The tanker trailer headed southbound on I-75, crossed the median, clipped the Ford pickup truck, landed in the ditch," said
Capt. Jerry Jensen with the Sarasota Fire Department.
Watson adds, "We're not sure if it's mechanical, driver error or medical condition with the operator of the vehicle."
Sarasota firefighters sprayed blankets of foam on the gas spill to control the fumes dikes and an earth berm help keep the fuel from spreading.
Removing the thousands of gallons of fuel from the truck took longer than emergency crews expected.
"There are 3 separate holes in the tank so now it has to be sucked out," Jensen said.
Nine hours later cleanup crews lifted the tanker out of the ditch.
Troopers say the third northbound lane on I-75 lane will open after dark once cleanup crews are done working.
Jim Lemar, a spokesperson with the Department of Environmental Protection, says crews will remove the water and contaminated oil. Lemar says the ditch will be refilled.
FHP also reported a four-car accident that occurred in the same location around that time, but no injuries were reported.
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