COPY-Tanker truck slams into bridge support, catches fire during storm

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A North Carolina man who was driving a tanker truck died after crashing on I-485 in Mecklenburg County early Wednesday morning.

The wreck occurred in the southbound lanes of I-485 at the overpass for Providence Road.

The highway patrol has identified the driver as Jack Carlton Simmons, 39, of Jacksonville.

When firefighters with the Charlotte Fire Department arrived at the scene, they say the truck was engulfed with flames.

The tanker appears to have drifted off the interstate and crashed into one of the concrete piers supporting the bridge.

The cab of the semi truck immediately exploded on impact and Simmons died at the scene, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.

Both directions of the interstate were immediately shut down as crews fought the flames. When Haz-Mat crews arrived, they sprayed foam to control the fire.

Fire officials called the truck's dispatch center and learned the tanker was empty.

While trying to fight the fire, an intense and violent lightning storm lit up the sky around 2 a.m.

Fire Captain Rob Brisley said in a strong storm like the one they experienced, it was important to keep an eye on each other, and to use extra caution above and beyond what was normal.

It took firefighters close to 45 minutes to extinguish the flames. The inner loop of I-485 was opened around 4 a.m., and one of the two lanes of the outer loop were opened about an hour later.

Structural engineers with the North Carolina Department of Transportation have deemed the bridge safe.

As a result of the accident, one of the concrete piers had some exposed rebarb that will have to be covered with concrete in the near future by a subcontractor.

The highway patrol said Simmons likely fell asleep just before the crash occurred.

 Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.