Man recovering after van burst into flames near Salmon Creek

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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The man who was taken to the hospital with burns on Aug. 26 after his vehicle exploded in flames near Salmon Creek is at home and recovering.

Clifford C. Dockter, 70, of La Center was driving a minivan southbound on Interstate 5 just north of the junction with Interstate 205 when a metal shaft that dropped from a semi truck impaled his vehicle.

Seconds later, the minivan was engulfed in flames, potentially from the shaft piercing the car’s gas tank, state patrol spokesman Ryan Tanner said after the incident.

He has “pretty good burns” on his arms and face, but is starting to heal, Dockter said from his home on Friday.

The fire sent up a large plume of black smoke and snarled traffic for miles on I-5 in both directions.

Rob Klug of Salmon Creek used his cellphone camera to snap a photo of van while it was on fire.

Klug said he showed the photo to his boss, who suggested he email it to The Columbian.