UPDATE: As of 7:21 PM, all lanes of I-75 are reopened following tanker crash between the Bee Ridge and Fruitville Road exits, says the Florida Department of Transportation.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- A fuel tanker overturned on Interstate 75 north of the Bee Ridge Road exit (#207) around 5:30 Wednesday morning, spilling hundreds of gallons of fuel, and causing traffic headaches around town all day.
The crash closed all three northbound lanes between Bee Ridge and Fruitville Road exits. Finally, around 4:40pm, two of the northbound lanes were re-opened.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, the driver, 71-year-old Thomas Grattan, is now recovering from surgery. He was actually traveling southbound Wednesday morning when his tanker truck swerved to the left for unknown reasons.
“He made a dramatic crossover, going over these cables and into oncoming traffic,” says Trooper Ken Watson with FHP.
An oncoming pickup truck nicked the tanker as a result. That driver was taken to the hospital with only bumps and bruises.
It could have been a lot worse.
“We are very fortunate. When you think of him coming across and crossing three northbound lanes, and for him not to hit anyone, or nobody hitting him, we are knocking on wood; extremely fortunate,” says Watson.
All day long, multiple first responders were on the scene -- 19 fire trucks in total --pouring foam on the 250-500 gallons of fuel that leaked and vacuuming out the rest.
Drivers in the southbound lanes of I-75 slowed down to watch the massive effort, coordinated by Sarasota County Emergency Management.
Around 2:30, the tanker and crew cab were hoisted from the ground using cranes.
Now, comes the investigation into why and how it happened. “Equipment failure...driver fatique...an issue like the driver answering the phone? I don’t want to make any guesses. We want to look and review the vehicle.”