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Driver of tanker that overturned and caught fire airlifted with severe burns

A tanker overturned and caught fire early Thursday, closing both directions of I-26 for hours. [PHOTO COURTESY OF SALUDA FIRE & RESCUE]

The driver of a tanker hauling thousands of gallons of gasoline was airlifted to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center with severe burns after the rig overturned and caught fire before 8 a.m. Thursday, authorities said.

Westbound lanes of I-26 at the top of the Saluda Grade remained closed Thursday morning at mile marker 60 while an Asheville-based hazmat crew cleaned up the wreckage and worked to contained spilled fuel.

“Several thousand gallons of gasoline were burning” when Saluda Fire & Rescue firefighters reached the crash site, fire Capt. Mick Edwards said shortly before noon.

Eastbound lanes are reopened. A motorist called WTZQ radio, the Lightning’s news partner, before 8 a.m. Thursday reporting that eastbound traffic was at a standstill for more than an hour.

Although the tanker driver was conscious and alert, he suffered severe burns and was expected to be transferred from Spartanburg Regional to a burn center in August, Georgia, Edwards said.