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A semi-trailer rig hauling a flammable load of cleaning chemicals erupted in flames early Wednesday morning after crashing into another big rig, closing down part of Interstate 80 near the Utah-Wyoming border.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said one of the semi drivers, identified only as a 44-year-old man, was flown from the scene of the 5 a.m. crash by helicopter to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he was reported to be in very critical condition. The other truck driver was not seriously hurt.
It appeared the accident, near Echo Canyon, occurred as one westbound semi rear-ended the other, which had partially pulled over to the side of the road, Royce said, but what specifically caused the two double-trailer rigs to crash remained under investigation.
The accident at milepost 182, about 15 miles west of the Wyoming state line resulted in closure of the westbound lanes of the freeway to the state line. Significant travel delays, with traffic backed up several miles, were noted as troopers diverted motorists along alternate routes.
UHP said the flames heavily damaged a section of the road and Utah Department of Transportation crews were on site at mid-day to repave the affected lanes. Utah Department of Transportation workers had to wait until the still smoldering, hot asphalt cooled enough to allow repair work, Royce said.
He said there was no firm estimate of when the damaged lanes would reopen, but it was likely to not be until sometime Wednesday evening.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, all eastbound lane had beeb reopened, but westbound lanes were expected to remain closed until 5 or 6 p.m., according to UDOT.
It was one semi's load of car batteries and the other big rig's load of several hundred gallons of cleaning chemical, known as "ACID Magic," that reportedly fed the flames. Both semis burned.
Other truck drivers reportedly stopped and assisted in helping remove the injured trucker
Alternate routes around fiery crash site •
An alternate route into northern Utah is from Evanston, Wyo. north on US 89 to SR 36 to SR 167 (Trappers Loop) to I-84 to Ogden.
To access Salt Lake use SR 150, Mirror Lake Highway, to SR 248, to US 40, reconnecting to I-80 westbound. Another route is SR 153 Chalk Creek Road to Coalville. However, this road may not be paved on the Wyoming side.
Semis and passenger cars out of Rawlins, Wyo, can use SR 789 accessed at Creston Junction, Exit 187, to Craig, Colorado to US 40.
Passenger cars may also consider SR 191 from Green River to Vernal to US 40.
Source: Utah Department of Transportation