A tractor-trailer driver died after his truck hit several construction vehicles on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on Wednesday morning, leading to a fire and closure of the Capital Beltway in both directions.
Three workers became stranded when their boom truck, which had its bucket extended under the bridge, was hit.
The tractor-trailer and three other vehicles caught fire, Alexandria Fire Department spokesman Rick Muse said. Thick black smoke could be seen for miles, and the vehicles on the outer loop of the Beltway were burning on the bridge just before 11 a.m.
Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire Department, said a preliminary investigation indicated that the tractor-trailer crashed into the boom truck. Brady said the three workers were stranded “with a fiery crash above them.”
The Maryland State Police is investigating the cause of the crash, but it appeared that the northbound tractor-trailer lost control and hit highway construction vehicles along the bridge, the agency said on Twitter.
Crews from several fire departments helped rescue the men under the bridge, with a fire boat from the District. Officials did not release the name of the tractor-trailer driver.
Officials began to clear the area and reopen lanes on the bridge during the early afternoon, although some northbound lanes remained closed into the evening rush. Northbound traffic on Interstate 95 was backed up for about 12 miles into Virginia, while southbound backups on the Maryland side extended about four miles, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Amid a slow evening rush, Alexandria Police tweeted: “Traffic is NASTY out there tonight folks, likely due to residual issues on 495. APD cannot move people through intersections if there is no where for them to go. We are stuck in it too, let’s all practice patience.”
Medics evaluated eight people, and all were treated and released, except for the boom operator, who was taken to a hospital for additional attention, Prince George’s Assistant Fire Chief Denny Chatel said.
About 100 firefighters from Alexandria, Fairfax, the District and Prince George’s “operated seamlessly together” to respond to the fiery scene, Chantel said, and bridge workers were on standby Wednesday to “thoroughly inspect the bridge” before all lanes reopen. The tractor-trailer was carrying paper goods, and it’s unclear what type of work the men under the bridge were doing.
Officials said a liquid was dripping into the river from the bridge. It wasn’t known what the liquid was, but authorities said it isn’t hazardous and quickly dissipated.
Rachel Weiner and Marissa J. Lang contributed to this report.