“Any time you are dealing with a HAZMAT scene it’s very dangerous because you really don’t know what you can expect what can happen”.Alton Trahan, Lafayette Fire Department.
I-10 Westbound between Whiskey Bay and Butte La Rose is still closed Tuesday night more than a day after a deadly crash stopped all traffic from Baton Rouge to Lafayette.
At least five people have been reported injured. One person was killed. That victim is identified as 31-year-old Christopher McGee of Youngstown, Florida.
Even though the fire is out, much more has to be done before the interstate is safe to drive.
The Lafayette Fire Department’s HAZMAT team was the first on the scene, but the accident has provided a special mix of challenges that are prolonging reopening the interstate.
Lafayette Fire Department’s Alton Trahan says the first challenge getting there. State police shut down the roads and turned several trapped drivers around.
“You can’t get to the other side”, explained Trahan.
On top of that Firefighters on both sides of the accident had to shuttle water from multiple parishes and take extra precaution to stop the fire before explosive tankers around the fire caught too.
Trahan said, “So you can’t get close, but you got to get close enough to extinguish a fire”,
As of Tuesday night, the fire is out, but debris still needs to be removed,
Including all the hazardous fuel inside the tankers which can’t be exposed to the air above or the water below.
Removing the liquid requires special tools, so private companies are being let in to do so, while firemen watch guard.
State police said on the first of three tankers about took five hours when it was expected to take only one hour.
State Police Trooper Thomas Gossen said it is impossible to estimate when the Basin Bridge will reopen, “Yesterday (Monday), I tried to get an estimate from these guys, and they were giving me an eight-hour estimate. Well, we’re now 24 hours later”.
Debris isn’t even the last step. Afterward, the Department of Environmental Quality will test the area for any chemical leaks, and the Department of Transportation will survey the bridge to make sure no permanent damage was made that makes it unsafe to travel.
Trahan says ultimately, “We’re not concerned about the speed upon which we do it. It is number one a safe environment and effectively and eventually putting it out”.
State police said Tuesday night there is still no timeline set for when work will be complete.
Traffic is being rerouted North to Highway 190 which connects Baton Rouge to Opelousas.