FORT MYERS, Fla. - We're uncovering new information about a fiery scene that shut down I-75 southbound for about 6 hours. Thursday morning, a Palmdale Oil truck carrying 3,500 gallons of fuel erupted in smoke and flames near the Corkscrew Road exit.
We still have not gotten a clear answer as to whether the fire was caused by driver error or mechanical error. But, we do know the driver, 26-year-old Carlos Marquinhos made it out safely before the truck was engulfed.
After the scene cleared, we saw grass on the shoulder burned 20 feet away and the shoulder of the road blackened by the fire.
Exclusive cell phone video shot by Vidal Ramos captures the panic on the side of I-75 as the Palmdale Oil driver watched his tanker truck go up in flames. You can hear the voices of Marquinhos and Ramos as he did what he could to help.
"It caught on fire right away," Ramos said, "and a big cloud came out of nowhere. I ran towards him, told him get out the truck, and kind of helped him out a bit, brought him to safety. We just started watching fireworks."
Troopers say Marquinhos was able to safely pull over the truck hauling 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 500 gallons of gasoline. The inferno shut down southbound lanes for hours as fire crews controlled the flames and the Department of Environmental Protection cleaned up the mess.
"Black smoke, red flames, orange flames, right out the side," Ramos recalled.
What sparked the fire is unclear. So far, Palmdale Oil hasn't said anything about the incident. We checked the company's records with the Department of Transportation. Over the past 2 years, they've had 7 violations ranging from speeding to using a mobile phone while operating a commercial vehicle. But again, troopers haven't yet said if anyone was at fault. "I am glad everybody is okay," Ramos said.
Only the emergency lane was damaged by the fire. Troopers don't anticipate any traffic issues Friday in terms of repair.
FHP advises drivers, approaching a scene like this one to:
-Safely change lanes away from the hazard. Do you best not to drive next to it
-And, watch for other dangers like pedestrians or items propelled by the fire when passing.