NBC Philadelphia reported that the collapse was caused by a burning truck under an overpass. Authorities told the local station they couldn’t find the driver inside. Early reports indicated that it might have been a tanker truck, but authorities were unable to confirm this information. The fire is reported to have been brought under control.
Video from the scene showed a huge concrete slab falling from I-95 onto the road below. According to Derek Bowmer, chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department Battalion, flames from the fire caused damage to gas lines and underground explosions.
Mark Fusetti, a retired Philadelphia police sergeant, told Bloomberg he was driving south toward the city’s airport when he noticed thick puffs of black smoke billowing from the highway. As he passed the fire, he said, the road below began to collapse, creating a noticeable depression that was visible on video he filmed of the scene.
Dominic Mireles, director of the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, said there were thousands of tons of steel and concrete at the collapse site and heavy construction equipment would be needed to remove the debris. Officials planned to launch a drone to assess the damage.
The incident was strikingly similar to another fire in Philadelphia in March 1996, when an illegal dump site under I-95 caught fire, melting barriers and damaging the highway. The highway was completely closed for several weeks, and the partial closure lasted six months. Seven teenagers were charged with arson. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the landfill owner was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $3 million of $6.5 million in freeway repair costs.