Driver Killed after Tanker Truck Explodes in Atwater

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ATWATER — Fire crews are investigating a Tanker explosion in Atwater near Highway 99 that killed one person.

Southbound Highway 99 is closed at Westside Boulevard due to the tanker fire at Applegate Road.

About 200 people in the area were evacuated. The tanker had just loaded up on fuel in Stockton and was making a delivery to an AM/PM in Atwater. It was hauling about 8,600 gallons of fuel and was just about a quarter mile from its destination.

Highway Patrol investigators believe the truck was going too fast while exiting Highway 99, and hit a concrete divider. The truck then tipped and its fuel started to spill and ignite.

The driver of the truck was killed. No other injuries were reported.

Caltrans says to expect delays in the area. There is no estimated time for the roads to reopen.

Smoke could be seen by residents in North Merced about 5-8 miles away from the location.

What damage was done by fire? 

The roaring fireball was caught on cell phone video. The sign that once welcomed visitors is now completely gutted. The street’s infrastructure is questionable as the fire that ripped through the sky also did a number on the street.

“This is going to take awhile. There has to be some evaluation of the roadway here where the fire occurred to ensure the integrity of the asphalt,” Atwater Mayor Jim Price said.

McDonald’s and Panda Express could be closed for days, maybe weeks, as smoke and fire damage took their toll on the businesses.

While most of the fuel burned up when the truck exploded, the Division Chief with Merced County Fire in cooperation with Cal Fire, tells FOX40 that some of the gasoline may have spilled into their drain system, which is where some of the city’s drinking water comes from.

The chief said public works and city crews are working to determine how much fuel may have spilled into their drain system and if it did, the next step will be how they decontaminate the water.

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