1 killed, truck driver in the hospital after fiery crash on Interstate 70 in Colorado

Both directions of Interstate 70 were closed in the western part of the Denver metro area after a crash involving a tanker truck that ignited a fire and one person was killed. Eastbound lanes reopened just before 4:30 p.m. and westbound lanes remained closed.

CDOT issued an update Thursday evening that both directions were back open following the lengthy closure. 

There were miles of traffic backups in both directions late Thursday morning as a result. 

An image from CBS News Colorado viewer Kevin K. showing the tanker fire and black plume of smoke rising from the crash that closed I-70 west of Denver near Morrison. 

Kevin K.

The crash happened just before 9:30 a.m. and involved the tanker truck and one other vehicle. According to Colorado State Patrol Golden, the tanker was parked on the side of the interstate after it had overheated when the vehicle crashed into the back of the trailer. 

In addition to the death, authorities said the driver of the truck was taken to the hospital.

CBS News Colorado’s helicopter flew over the scene of a tanker fire that closed I-70 on Thursday.


“I noticed a huge plume of black smoke,” one commuter told CBS News Colorado. “Off in the distance and was a little worried what that could be… then the traffic came to a standstill.”

Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said “all hands are on deck” in the effort to clean up the scene, investigate the fatal crash and get the interstate back open as soon as possible.

Colorado authorities provide update on fiery fatal Interstate 70 crash

The impact caused fuel to spill through a culvert and across the eastbound lanes of I-70. CSP said the culvert needs to be inspected for damage from the fire. 

“We are working with emergency responders and we urge motorists to stay away from the area because of the delays,” Rollison said.


CBS News Colorado’s helicopter flew over the scene soon after the crash and firefighters could be seen spraying the charred remains of the vehicle that collided with the back of the tanker to extinguish the fire. The tanker was pulled to the side of the lane closest to the median of the separated portion of I-70 near Morrison Road. A large portion of the interstate was blackened.

According to the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, the tanker was fully engulfed when crews were called to the scene. 


Fire crews were also seen spraying a portion of charred brush off the side of the interstate near where the tanker was engulfed in flames. 

“It was a very hot fire putting off a lot of toxic, black thick smoke,” said Arvada Fire spokesman Brady Johnson.  

One delivery driver, who spoke with CBS News Colorado off-camera, said that he tried to drive his vehicle through the initial crash. As he took his van over the fuel spilling into the fast lanes of the interstate, his own car caught fire. He was able to extinguish the flames but was left without a tow truck or support as the interstate shut down on both ends. 

Eastbound lanes were closed due to a spillover of fuel which led to fire engulfing areas away from the highway. 


“So [the eastbound lane closure] [was] due to the fire that went through a culvert,” Colorado State Trooper Gabriel Moltrer explained. “So you have to make sure that it did not compromise the road from where the culverts are located, causing any type of road deformity.”

“You have a fire compression component,” said Johnson. “You have a medical component with taking care of the patient. You have a hazardous materials component and a wildland firefighting component.”

A black plume of smoke from the crash scene could be seen across the Denver metro area just after 9:30 a.m.



Both directions of I-70 were closed from Exit 254- US 40 to Genesee and US 6 for more than 7 hours until eastbound lanes reopened about 4:30 p.m. Westbound lanes remained closed. 

According to CDOT, the alternate route for drivers is US 40 frontage road paralleling I-70 or US 6 through Clear Creek Canyon. CDOT said to expect extended delays on all alternate routes.

“Our CDOT crews are out there helping with the effort. They are out there as part of the road closure trying to keep things as safe and secure as possible. They are out there working alongside with our other emergency responders,” Rollison said.

With high school graduations happening on Thursday and the first truly good weather of the year, it became a long slog to wade through the traffic. 

As one told CBS News, “Just don’t even know what direction to go from this point right?”


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