Body recovered from Interstate 95 collapse wreckage
(ABC News) Officials recovered a body from the wreckage of the Interstate 95 collapse in Philadelphia, which happened on Sunday morning when a tanker caught fire beneath an underpass.
The Philadelphia County Medical Examiner and coroner are working on identifying the remains, as officials continue to clear the damaged part of the highway.
The rebuild of that section of I-95 is expected to take months, officials said.
“With regards to the complete rebuild of I-95 roadway, we expect it to take some number of months,” Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said at a press conference on Sunday evening.
Shapiro signed a disaster declaration on Monday, which he said would allow Pennsylvania to use federal funds in its rebuilding effort and immediately access $7 million in state funds.
The complete demolition of the bridge is likely to be complete within the next four to five days, officials said at a press conference Monday.
The bridge itself, which was constructed 10 to 12 years ago, was “structurally sound” prior to the crash, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll said as a press conference Monday.
The tanker truck, carrying 8,500 of gasoline, attempted to navigate a left-hand turn after exiting at the Cottman Avenue offramp of I-95, according to officials. Losing control through its turn, the tanker fell on its side and ruptured its own tank, according to Carroll. Once ignited, the fuel burned at a high enough heat to structurally compromise the concrete and steel I-beans of the overpass.
The tanker that crashed and ignited has since been removed from the crash site. Officials have largely removed the collapsed section of the interstate and are working on demolishing the structurally unsound southbound portion of the road.
Inspectors from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation determined that the southbound portion cannot be reopened and will also need to be replaced, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report reviewed by ABC News on Monday.
Individuals who crossed the southbound portion of the road around 6:25 a.m. prior to the road being shut down described the road as slumping downward.
“It was like a sinkhole,” emergency room nurse Lisa Taormino told ABC News. “It felt like if you were driving, and you hit a really big pothole, and the whole entire road just sunk down probably a good six to 12 inches down.”
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg pledged the full support of his department to the rebuilding efforts during remarks at the American Council of Engineering Companies conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
Buttigieg said the collapse would slow passenger traffic but significantly impact supply chains.
“This is going to be a major disruption in that region and it’s really going to affect the Northeast,” he told reporters Monday.
I-95 is one of the busiest travel corridors in the United States and serves as the main north-south highway on the East Coast. An average of more than 160,000 vehicles travel across the impacted section in Philadelphia every day, according to a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Roughly 8-9% of traffic through that portion of I-95 is comprised of commercial traffic, with the American Trucking Association warning that the collapse is “likely to have significant impacts on the supply chain.”
Carrol pledged on Monday to work “24/7” to “attack this problem in the most efficient way possible so that we can resume normal traffic movements on I-95.” All lanes between the exits for Philadelphia’s Woodhaven Road and Aramingo Avenue are closed in both directions indefinitely, local ABC station WPVI reported.
“It’s gonna look like lower Manhattan like every day, probably throughout the summer,” Somerton resident Mark Fusetti told ABC News. “It’s going to be a nightmare.”
President Joe Biden was briefed on the collapse and his administration is in communication with Shapiro as well as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
A team of specialists from the National Transportation Safety Board, in coordination with the Pennsylvania State Police, will also be on site Monday to begin the on-scene portion of their safety investigation into the incident. A preliminary report will be available in two to three weeks, according to the NTSB.
ABC News’ Victoria Arancio, Matt Foster, Amanda Maile, Chad Murray, and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.