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Big rig explodes in flames in Hwy 99 rollover

Big rig explodes in flames in Hwy 99 rollover
The wreckage of a gas tanker blocks traffic on southbound 99 near Merle Haggard Drive on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Brian Farinas)
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A big rig tanker rollover led to the shutdown of Highway 99 in both directions on Saturday morning.

The California Highway Patrol reported that a gas tanker rolled over just after 4 a.m. at Highways 99 and 65.

The tanker caught fire, but the driver suffered only minor injuries.

A crane was brought in to remove the wreckage, and engineers were evaluating the structural integrity of the bridge.

CHP officers confirmed the rig was hauling gasoline from Fresno to Tehachapi when it overturned on the 99 south, under the Hwy. 65 over-crossing. The truck exploded into flames.

"I saw when the truck was flipping," said Mayra Montano, who was on her way to work when she saw the big rig lose control.

Montano said she pulled over to help the male driver who was still in the cab of the truck.

"When I jumped back, I heard him yelling, 'Help, help, help.' I jumped, I grabbed him, I put him in my car, and we stopped on the exit on 7th Standard, and called an ambulance," Montano said.

When CHP arrived on scene, the tankers were fully engulfed in flames. Fire officials chose to let the blaze burn itself out.

The fire lipped under the highway 65 over-crossing.

Caltrans later determined the integrity of the bridge was still sound.

The flames also damaged a nearby power pole.

The driver had some broken ribs and head trauma, according to Montano. He was taken to Kern Medical Center.

Witnesses said the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel just before the crash, but that has not been confirmed.

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