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Utah's Highway 6 laid waste by truck explosion

Yowza: Truck of explosives detonates on highway
Truck was 'pretty much vaporized'

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP)—A truck carrying 35,500 pounds of explosives crashed and exploded Wednesday, leaving a huge crater in a Utah highway and injuring at least four people.

The driver was able to get out and warn other motorists away before the truck exploded. But a passenger in the truck cab and other motorists were rushed to hospitals with injuries, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said.

Two people were in critical condition, and another was in satisfactory condition at a hospital in Provo, LDS Hospital spokesman Jess Gomez said.

The truck driver, a 30-year-old man, was taken to University of Utah Hospital where he was alert and talking when he arrived, spokesman Chris Nelson said.

It wasn't immediately clear why the truck crashed, Royce said. He said the truck was "pretty much vaporized" in the explosion. And both lanes of Highway 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon, about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City, were gutted by the blast.

J.D. Herbert, a nephew of Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, said the explosion blew him off his motorcycle. Afterward, he looked up "at a mushroom cloud of fire, and shrapnel just starts falling down," he told KUTV of Salt Lake City.

Several small fires in the hills above the accident scene were believed to have been triggered by flying debris, and nearby rail lines were damaged.

The rig with a 6-foot trailer from R&R Trucking of Missouri had just left commercial explosives maker Ensign-Bickford at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon when the accident happened. The truck was headed to Oklahoma, company officials said.

Officials wouldn't say what type of explosives the truck was carrying.

Hal Jaussi, an Ensign-Bickford manager, said the trucking company "met federal regulations for transporting explosives."
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UPDATE 08/11/05 08:00: Deseret Morning News story offers photographs and diagrams and updates the injury count to 10; notes construction crews are already on the scene with the goal of reopening the road by the weekend.

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UPDATE 08/15/05 19:00: (San Francisco/Oakland) story offers video clip of the fireball captured by drivers approaching the scene from about half a mile away.

Salt Lake City's story notes that speed definitely played a role in the crash. Crews had the crater filled in within several hours and expected the roadway to reopen Friday morning.

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UPDATE 08/16/05 09:00: Salt Lake Tribune editorial: Fix dangerous highway