Friday marks 1 year since fiery tanker crash

It’s been a year since a tanker truck crashed on an Interstate 81 ramp near Harrisburg and caused a huge explosion and fire that snarled traffic in the area for several days.

The intense flames destroyed both the ramp from I-81 North to Route 22/322 West and the Route 22 East bridge over the interstate.

State police said the truck hit the guard rail and overturned, causing the tanker’s load of diesel fuel to burst into flames. Those flames poured down onto I-81 below and a fireball billowed above the overpass.

One year later, people are still talking about what happened. Mike Keiser, a PennDOT District 8 executive, said the first four hours after the crash were critical in managing the situation. He said communication with other states was important because the shutdown had an impact on traffic in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

The resulting fuel spill had a major impact on nearby Wildwood Park. More than 12 water birds were killed.

Park manager Chris Webert said the quick response from agencies and volunteers helped minimize the damage and prevented the spread of the fuel. Webert says they continue to monitor the effects one year later.

“We have noticed the birds don’t seem to be impacted,” Webert said. “We have not noticed any real change in the plant communities in the park that we can relate to the fuel spill.”

It cost PennDOT $13 million to repair the damaged ramp and bridge. Both reopened to traffic last fall.

The truck driver, Thomas Uecker of Dover, was cited for excessive speed. So far, he has not brought to trial.

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