Southbound Interstate 35 reopens after a fiery crash closed highway during rush hour

02/25/2014 7:20 AM

02/25/2014 1:33 PM

Southbound Interstate 35 just south of downtown Kansas City reopened mid-morning Tuesday about three hours after a tractor-trailer crashed and erupted in flames.

One lane of the heavily-traveled interstate that takes drivers from downtown Kansas City into Wyandotte and Johnson counties reopened shortly after 10 a.m. All lanes were back open by 10:20 a.m.

The highway had been closed since about 6:55 a.m., when the semitrailer overturned and burst into flames between the Southwest Trafficway and Cambridge Circle exits.

Witnesses in the northbound lanes told police that tractor-trailer hauling a concrete slab was coming around the curve when one of the chains holding the load appeared to snap, said Kansas City police Sgt. Deb Randol.

The slab, which was being held in an angled upright position, shifted and flipped the truck onto the driver’s side, she said. It slid down the highway and erupted into flames.

The crash knocked debris into the northbound lane, and flying chunks of concrete damaged six windshields.

The driver of the tractor-trailer escaped from the burning truck and was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Kansas City firefighters brought in their hazardous materials unit and foam tanker to battle the fire, which was fed by spilled fuel.

The fire was extinguished by 7:30 a.m. The highway stayed closed while crews removed debris and what remained of the truck.

Traffic headed north on I-35 into Kansas City quickly backed up because of debris in the northbound lanes. Crews shut northbound lanes briefly to clear them.

Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Porter said crews will examine the pavement to assess the damage, which usually includes cracking and chipping when a vehicle burns on the roadway.

If there is damage, he said crews typically would make repairs after rush hour or in the evening because it is such a busy stretch of interstate.

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