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Fiery crash kills one, shuts down I-40

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police say a crash on Interstate 40 left a motorcyclist dead and a semi tractor-trailer engulfed in flames beneath the Coors Boulevard overpass – shutting the roads into late Wednesday morning while fire crews extinguished the blaze and engineers came out to assess the overpass stability.

Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said the motorcyclist hit the barrier while heading westbound on I-40, causing the rider and motorcycle to slide across the interstate before colliding with the semi tractor-trailer and being lodged beneath it.

“The rider separated from under the semi and was run over by at least two other vehicles,” he said. “The motorcycle remained lodged under the semi, piercing a fuel tank and causing the semi to catch fire.”

Drobik said the truck driver was not injured and both speed and alcohol appear to be a factor on the motorcyclist’s part, but did not respond to questions Wednesday on how police came to that conclusion.

Both westbound I-40 at Coors and the Coors overpass were shut while police investigated the crash.

Due to the semi tractor-trailer going up in flames directly beneath the overpass, engineers with the New Mexico Department of Transportation had to assess the bridge’s stability before reopening the roadway.

DOT spokeswoman Kim Gallegos said the initial flames that resulted in an explosion when the fuel tanks lit heated up the bridge “pretty good” but it was ruled structurally sound. She said several engineers with the department checked the bridge Wednesday morning but only found cosmetic damage.

Gallegos said extreme heat can change the chemical compound of concrete.

“It can cause it to break loose from itself,” she said.

Gallegos said only an inch of concrete became loose and engineers knocked it off with a hammer so it wouldn’t fall on passing vehicles.

She said the plan moving forward is to patch the concrete and redo the pavement on I-40, which became a little warped from the heat.

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