TRAFFIC: Crash closes NB lanes of I-75 near Fruitville Rd. in Sarasota

SARASOTA, Fla. - All northbound lanes of I-75 are now open at Bee Ridge Road after a crash near Fruitville Road at mile marker 210.  

The expressway had been closed since 6 a.m. Wednesday, cutting off the major artery between Ft. Myers and Tampa Bay.

A southbound fuel tanker, carrying an estimated 8,700 gallons of gasoline, came crashing through the median and into the northbound lane, hitting a couple of other vehicles, then ended up in the ditch along side I-75 about a half mile south of Fruitville Road.

"Safety is our number one concern," said Trooper Trooper Kenn Watson of the Florida Highway Patrol.  

FHP is estimating around 7,600 gallons of fuel spilled during this crash. 

Firefighters, with a three-alarm response, foamed the partially-filled gas hauler to keep the danger of explosion to a minimum.  

Investigators were talking with the rig's driver, Thomas Grattan, who was airlifted to Blake Hospital. They were also checking the truck itself.

 

One firefighter suffered a twisted ankle while working the scene. Another was treated for heat exhaustion.

A city bus was brought to the scene to provide air conditioning relief for emergency workers and the Red Cross also responded to help provide relief for work and emergency crews.

"We're gonna have a Commercial Enforcement Trooper review that vehicle to make sure there was not a mechanical failure prior, during or after that crash," said Trooper Watson.

Exactly what happened has not been determined. But once it was found that there was gas leaking, the task turned to protecting the environment and containing the leaked fuel. 

Two other tankers were brought to off load the gas still on the truck and to suck up any remnants of it that have escaped into the ditch alongside I-75 North

"We're doing everything we can to eliminate any more loss of fuel, that's why we have more people coming to assist," added Trooper Watson.

The environmental crews roped off the area of the spill. The plan is to return to the site 9 a.m. Thursday to continue their cleanup efforts. 

The FHP alerted the Governor's Office to the situation and estimates of losses to the Florida economy will range into the millions of dollars with the main west-coast south-to-north route severed for so long.  

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