All lanes of Sunshine Skyway Bridge reopen after tanker fire

Photo courtesy Glenn Masur

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — All lanes of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge have reopened as of 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, after a tanker truck hit the bridge’s barrier wall and burst into flames Tuesday. Florida Highway Patrol says all repairs have been completed.

Investigators say Ulises Hernandez-Fernandez, 48, of Tampa, was driving the 2007 Mack Truck when the right, front tire of the truck blew out. Hernandez-Fernandez lost control of the truck at the southbound 12.5 milepost.

The truck left the roadway and hit the outside barrier wall multiple times over a distance of 800 feet. The truck, which was carrying 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel for Tampa-based company JVS Contracting, came to rest in the outside, southbound lane and then caught fire.

Hernandez-Fernandez was able to get out of the truck. He suffered minor injuries and was transported to Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Fire crews arrived on scene and had a difficult time extinguishing the petroleum-based fire due to water supply issues. Lt. Steve Lawrence said water supply was an issue because engines only carry 500 gallons of water.

Surrounding agencies were called in to assist. Crews worked to determine where the fire was coming from.

“We don’t know if the saddle tanks were the ignition where the fuel first ignited or if it was the diesel fuel in the back,” Lawrence said.

The fire crews used foam from a St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport truck to help snuff out the flames. The tanker, which a flatbed hauled off the bridge, was just strands of steel after the fire.

A WFLA viewer happened to be driving on the bridge shortly after the crash and recorded dramatic video of the burning tanker (see video above).

The fire brought drivers to a halt, initially closing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Drivers had to make U-turns. Anne Marie Rizzo was heading to Tampa from Sarasota when she got stuck in the northbound lane.

“I was about the fifth car back once they blocked the northbound lanes, and you could clearly see that it was the truck on fire and the smoke just going everywhere. You could see the flames,” Rizzo said. “Everyone just kind of stood still. You could see it just, the traffic piling up all the way back.”

The Florida Department of Transportation is checking the barrier wall for structural damage.

Photo courtesy Glenn Masur
Photo courtesy Glenn Masur
Photo courtesy Ernie Haynes
Photo courtesy Ernie Haynes


Photo courtesy St. Pete Fire Rescue
Photo courtesy St. Pete Fire Rescue

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