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June 12, 2023

Entire I-95 bridge damaged by tanker-truck fire must be demolished

The northbound lanes collapsed during the blaze, and while the southbound side remained standing, it can't be repaired; also investigators have recovered the driver's remains

The southbound side of the I-95 overpass, still standing after Sunday's truck fire in Northeast Philadelphia, will need to be demolished, PennDOT officials said Monday. The northbound half of the elevated highway had fallen Sunday morning while the truck was in flames, trapping the tanker truck beneath the rubble as first responders extinguished the fire. 

As crews continued the clean-up Monday, investigators found the remains of the truck's driver, officials said Monday. 6ABC is reporting his identity to be Nathaniel Moody, an experienced driver who worked for a trucking company in Pennsauken, Camden County.

MORE: Here are the detours and travel updates following I-95 collapse Sunday morning

On Monday afternoon, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office did not immediately confirm the driver's identity, pending examination of the remains. 

Video shared on Twitter on Monday showed the remnants of the truck being towed away from the scene.

Sunday's fire started around 6 a.m. between Exit 32 for Academy Road and Exit 30 for Cottman Avenue in the city's Tacony neighborhood.

Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll said the driver of the truck lost control on a curve along the Cottman Avenue off ramp. The truck fell on its side beneath the I-95 overpass, rupturing and igniting its fuel tank. Heat from the fire melted the highway's steel support beams, resulting in the collapse of the northbound half of the bridge and significant structural damage to the southbound side.

Federal inspectors were at the scene Monday to assist in the ongoing investigation.

At the time of the fire, the tanker truck was carrying about 8,500 gallons of 87-octane gasoline.

PennDOT officials said demolition of the southbound side was set to begin Monday, following the inspection of the tanker truck that was removed from the site. Inspectors determined on Sunday that the southbound side was unsafe for vehicles.

"The I-beams aren't capable of supporting the traffic, and so that structure has to be removed," Carroll said.

On Monday, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro signed a disaster emergency proclamation to expedite federal money for the I-95 repairs, which are expected to take several months. A timeline for the reconstruction of the bridge will be released later this week.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged his support for the recovery, during a news conference Monday,

"The entire region affected by this will have the full support of the United States Department of Transportation for as long as it takes to get that restored to normal," Buttigieg said.

Commuters in the region faced delays Monday as they were detoured from the highway onto smaller roads or otherwise relied on SEPTA to get around.

"The ridership was up on SEPTA this morning," Carroll said. "We expect it to be even better tomorrow."

Shapiro said Sunday that the state is exploring interim solutions to connect both sides of I-95 to get traffic through the area, but did not explain what that could entail.

All lanes of the highway remain shut down between the exits for Woodhaven Road in Northeast Philadelphia and Aramingo Avenue Port Richmond.

On an average day, about 160,000 vehicles travel the stretch of I-95 that was damaged Sunday. PennDOT officials said the section of I-95 that collapsed was including in a $212 million reconstruction project completed four years ago.

This is a developing story. Updates to follow.