The 710 Freeway reopened early Monday in time for the morning drive as investigators attempted to determine the sequence of events leading to the crash and fire that forced a weekend closure of the north-south route southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Morning commuters passed a burn-marked freeway wall Monday -- a reminder of the crash involving a tanker carrying 8,000 gallons of crude oil that crashed on Sunday, exploding into flames that swept through a neighborhood and left the driver with life-threatening injuries. The fire prompted the evacuations of homes in the 1400 block of South Sydney Drive close to where the 9:30 a.m. crash closed the Long Beach (710) Freeway at Washington Boulevard.
The truck driver escaped, but was hospitalized in critical condition with burns, officials said. A second person was taken to a hospital with less severe injuries.
Three Union Pacific Rail employees -- the rail yard is below the overpass on which the crash occurred -- helped the trucker escape from the burning cab, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Authorities confirmed Monday that a second vehicle was involved in the crash.
"We don't have the complete picture, yet," said CHP Officer Saul Gomez. "The main cause of the traffic collision is still under investigation at this time."
Several vehicles burned, but no homes or businesses caught fire. The big rig dangled over the side of the freeway overpass onto rail track that run under the bridge.
Aerial video showed cleanup crews under the bridge early Monday. Engineers inspected the structure and determined it was safe to reopen Monday morning.
Eight vehicles parked on surface streets were destroyed by fire. Several residents and motorist took video of the fire.
Junior Maldonado has lived in a house near the crash site for 10 years. The burning crude was like a lava flow as it poured down from the overpass, he said.
"It was spilling down, setting everything on fire," Maldonado said. "Everything it touched was on fire.
"There's a lumber yard right next door, so that had us really worried. But he fire department kicked in really fast, and they made sure all of us were ok."
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