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Fire and Explosions Rock Saugatuck From I-95 Crash

UPDATE Explosions and fire followed a crash tonight of a tanker truck carrying sewage on I-95, sending the flaming driver’s cab tumbling down an embankment at the north end of the Saugatuck River bridge. The driver was killed, according to fire officials.

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Heavy smoke and fire from the crash could be seen from the other side of the Saugatuck River. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) News-12 Connecticut photo

State police early Thursday identified the truck driver as Thomas Patrick Reynolds, 64, of Woodbury. They said another vehicle was involved in the crash on the southbound side of the bridge shortly before 7 p.m. and that the driver, Ramses Taylor Rival, 35, of Stamford was charged with driving under the influence. The highway was reopened southbound at 5:32 a.m. Thursday.

“There were three more explosions after it went off the highway,” one witness told News-12 Connecticut. “It was so loud – boom, boom, boom, and a few minutes later it died down and then it just rocketed up again.”

Another man said: “There was a fire as high as the trees. And there was another boom.”

The overturned tanker portion burned on the highway and sewage leaked from its ruptured tank as northbound traffic passed by, witnesses said.

The driver’s cab apparently came to rest amid some trees on Underhill Parkway at Elaine Road, not far from the Westport Animal Shelter and Westport’s sewage treatment plant. Police closed off entrances to Underhill Parkway and Elaine Road.

The explosions could be seen across the river on Saugatuck Avenue as well as from the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge over the Saugatuck. Traffic on I-95 was shut down in both directions. About an hour later northbound traffic was allowed to resume.

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The cab portion of the sewage tanker truck burns on Underhill Parkway tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) News-12 Connecticut photo

State police said the investigation could take hours with the continued shutdown of the southbound lanes between exits 17 and 18.

Westport police and fire units responded and requested assistance from Norwalk, Fairfield, and Wilton. Westport also called in off-duty police and firefighters to help handle the scene and the resulting traffic jams.

At least one 18-wheel tractor-trailer got stuck on the Cribari Bridge, resulting in a backup on Greens Farms Road that stretched to Hales Road. 

Police were sent to monitor Post Road intersections as traffic was diverted off I-95 at exit 18 on to the Sherwood Island connector.

The spilled sewage came close to the Westport Animal Shelter and the town’s animal control officer was summoned to check on the shelter and its occupants.

Representatives of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner arrived on the scene after 10 p.m. Crews from Connecticut Tank Removal also arrived to help clear the wreckage.

Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola, who lives not far from where the tanker truck cab came to rest, said it was the first time in memory that a vehicle had come off of I-95 in the area.

Emergency responders were told to expect to be on scene through the night.

Westport fire officials requested a canteen truck from Milford to help sustain the responders at the scene.

The driver’s body was reported extricated from the truck at 2:39 a.m. Thursday, more than seven and a half hours after the crash.

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