A minivan driver was taken to a hospital with burns Friday afternoon after his vehicle hit a metal shaft that had fallen from a semi truck on Interstate 5 southbound in Salmon Creek.
Seconds later, the minivan was engulfed in flames, possibly because the shaft pierced its gas tank, said Trooper Ryan Tanner with the Washington State Patrol.
About 2:50 p.m., a piece of the semi truck’s drive shaft came loose and fell onto the freeway just north of the junction with Interstate 205. The semi driver, his tractor disabled, pulled over to the right.
One minivan hit the shaft, sustained a flat tire and pulled over to the right.
A second minivan hit the shaft and was more heavily damaged. Its driver also pulled over to the right, then got out just as the van exploded, Tanner said.
The driver was taken to a hospital by AMR Northwest ambulance paramedics. No one else was reported injured.
The explosion sent up a large plume of black smoke.
The accident snarled traffic for miles on I-5 in both directions, and also on part of I-205, Tanner said. In an update about 4:30 p.m., Tanner said a tow-truck operator was taking the gutted van away and traffic was clearing slowly.
Rob Klug, a Salmon Creek resident, stopped and took a dramatic photo of the van while it was engulfed in flames.
“It was scary, big flames,” Klug said. “It was amazingly hot 20 feet away from us.”
Klug said he showed the photo to his boss, who suggested he email it to The Columbian. He had used his HTC Android cellphone, an EVO model.
John Branton: 360-735-4513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.