DUBLIN — A tractor-trailer tanker truck crashed and burst into flames on a highway ramp Monday morning (Jan. 23), killing the driver.
The driver was identified as Duane Brodman, who had worked for about three years for Lykins Energy Solutions in Milford, Ohio.
Dublin Police say the truck, carrying gasoline, caught fire after the driver hit a guardrail at the exit from the U.S. 33 bridge to Interstate 270. Lt. Steve Farmer said the truck was turned on its right side from making a left-hand turn. It is unknown whether speed or weather played a factor in the crash. The ramp speed limit is 55 mph.
Burning gasoline then spread down the ramp. Authorities say it wasn’t immediately known how much gasoline the truck was carrying at the time, but Farmer says it could hold up to 8,000 gallons. Before 11 a.m., smoke and fire were all over the roadway and the flames could be seen from miles away.
“I just couldn’t believe how huge it was and the fact that we were close enough to feel the heat coming off it was surreal,” said Carla Rose, a passing motorist from Delaware.
“We had the windows up in the car and you could feel the heat coming through the windows of the car,” Doug Rose told WCMH-TV. “It was unbelievable.”
In the meantime, off-duty Sunbury police officer Matthew Bowman was driving towards the crash.
“If I just would have been 30 seconds, maybe 10 seconds sooner, I would have been right under that bridge,” said Ofc. Bowman. “Because it happened right before, I was safe and I was able to keep other people safe.”
Bowman, an officer for five years and a fireman before that, parked his car, got out and shouted to other drivers to back up away from the fire as more explosions occurred.
“The heat that it was putting off … you couldn’t get much closer than where I was,” he said. “I knew that the overpasses had drainage systems and I was afraid the fuel was going to dump onto the bottom, that was my concern for the people that were passing me.”
“Officer Bowman selflessly put himself between danger and the public, took control of the situation and ordered people to get back,” said the Facebook page Ohio Going Blue. “He likely saved lives today, and for that, we are grateful.”
“I think that it’s just normal, everyday stuff for me, being a police officer off-duty is no different than on-duty,” said Ofc. Bowman. “The main concern was their safety and I thought if I could keep them safe, then I was doing my job.”
Washington Township firefighters tried to get to the tanker, but the amount of flames and heat prevented any rescue.
Ohio Department of Transportation officials said the fire caused the top of the bridge to lose some concrete, forcing emergency repairs. ODOT also said this was the first instance of an accident at the ramp, which had been open for four months.
Parts of both roads were closed for a time Monday. The ramp reopened Thursday (Jan. 26), but reduced to one lane for the time being.
Information from Associated Press and WCMH-TV were used in this story.