The tanker truck involved in a fiery crash in South Jersey Monday may not have been authorized to carry the thousands of gallons of gasoline that erupted into flames, according to records obtained by NBC10.
NBC10 reviewed federal motor carrier records Monday night which indicated that the operating status of TK Transport, a company based in Pennsauken, New Jersey, was "not authorized." This means the company's workers are not allowed to transport hazardous materials, such as gasoline, according to an official.
Sometimes non-authorized transport companies loan out their vehicles to authorized companies to carry materials such as gasoline, which is legal. However, it has not yet been confirmed if that was the case in Monday's incident.
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NBC10 reached out to TK Transport. A spokesperson told us the company has no comment at this time.
The TK Transport truck was carrying approximately 8,000 gallons of fuel Monday morning when it ignited on the Route 90 eastbound on-ramp to US 130 north in Pennsauken, just east of the Betsy Ross Bridge, police said.
Pennsauken Police Captain Michael Probasco told NBC10 the truck overturned around 11 a.m. while its driver, 43-year-old Brian Ervin, navigated the ramp. For some reason, he lost control sending the truck into a guardrail before landing on Delaware River Port Authority land. The impact ruptured the tractor-trailer's tank and the gasoline began to burn.
Ervin was rescued from the burning vehicle by police arriving on scene. He was taken to Cooper Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries. No one else was hurt.
Flaming fuel poured out of the truck, running across the graded ramp, down an embankment and perilously close to the backyards of homes. A second fire started in a small wooded area behind homes.
"I was in my kitchen with my dog and I hear, 'Boom, boom, boom,'" recalled resident Marisa Clements, who lives across the street from the ramp. At first, she thought someone was banging on her front door.
"It looked like the sky was falling. I just went out I knocked on my neighbor’s door and I said 'C’mon get out, get out, something’s blowing up,'" she said. "I was scared to death."
Greg Wicker, who lives across the street from Clements, heard six explosions before seeing a ball of flames.
"I didn’t know what to make of it, so I got out of bed and saw this inferno in the backyard and the house across the street," he said.
Strong northwest winds kept the thick smoke from rising, forcing it to stay close to the street. Still, the plume could be seen from miles away in Cherry Hill and across the river in Center City Philadelphia.
"It’s just jet black smoke. I’ve never seen so much smoke," resident Florence Panto said, panting while describing the scene. The woman suffering from emphysema was concerned about being able to smell the acrid chemical through her closed doors and windows.
"It scratches your throat and like I said I’m about six houses down, she said. "So I mean I believe we’re in a good spot, but I’m sure the people right up the street, they have to be evacuated."
Health officials warn that breathing in fumes or smoke from fuel fires is extremely dangerous. Smoke irritates eyes, nose and throat, which can make breathing much more difficult. It can also lead to chronic health issues.
Thirty homes near the crash were evacuated as a safety precaution. The residents were allowed back inside after the area was deemed safe around 5:30 p.m.
A staff member at Crescent Hill Academy — less than half a mile from the scene, but the closest school — said while they were not in danger, a few parents had come to pick up their kids.
Concerned the burning gasoline could be washed into storm drains, firefighters waited for a hazmat crew to arrive with special flame-retardant foam to smother the fire.
By 12:20 p.m., the fire was knocked back. All that remained was a shell of charred steel and rubber.
Route 90 east is closed to Route 73. The Route 90 east ramp to 130 north and south is also closed. The local access exit to 130 north is open however. Drivers in the area are advised to follow the Hilton Road(130N) detour.
Two hundred gallons of gasoline that remained after the fire, were transferred to another tanker and removed after the site cooled. Hazmat teams contained the spill and officials are currently cleaning up the site. Air quality monitors are also in place and working in the community. The U.S. Coast Guard is also monitoring the incident while the Camden County Health Department and Pennsauken Fire Department set up a command center.
The Delaware River Port Authority is also investigating the crash.