Cibola County – At approximately 7:30 a.m. on November 3, 2012, New Mexico State Police Officers responded to a single vehicle crash on I-40 east of Grants, NM.
Officers arrived on scene to find a semi tractor trailer tanker, fully engulfed in fire. The driver of the tractor was being treated by ambulance personnel and a few minutes later was flown to UNMH in Albuquerque, NM with non-life threatening injuries.The driver was later identified as Dennis Pritchard (33) of Rio Rancho, NM.
I-40 was closed in both directions while the vehicle fire burned. The tractor tanker was found to be loaded with over 8,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline, so fire fighting personnel had to let the fire burn until it was at a manageable point. The fire was extinguished at 10:00 a.m.
Eastbound traffic was re-routed onto State Road 124, while one lane of westbound I-40 was opened for travel. Damage to both sides of the roadway occurred during the fire and NMDOT is on scene conducting repairs.
The speed limit in that part of I-40 has been lowered to 65 mph until the damaged roadway can be repaired. The public is urged to please slow down in the effected area
for safety reasons, as construction and clean-up crews will be working through the weekend.
Investigating officers believe that the driver of the tractor may have fallen asleep at the wheel, causing the tractor to overturn in the median.
Alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
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Contact: Lieutenant Robert McDonald