When a Fuel Tanker Rolls and Burns, Panda Express Employees in Atwater, California Know How to Evacuate

Panda Express employees evacuate after tanker truck explodes outside restaurant in Atwater, California.

Atwater police and firefighters and the California Fire Patrol responded about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday May 23, 2017 to a rollover tanker truck fire that caused a fire and explosion near a Panda Express restaurant. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported the truck overturned while exiting Highway 99 southbound onto Applegate Road. The crash and fire killed the driver of the truck.

Atwater Mayor Jim Price confirmed the driver that was killed worked for Williams Tank Line in Stockton.

Nearly 250 people were evacuated from the area, and the CHP blocked off about a half mile of road in case more explosions occurred.

The external walls of a McDonald’s caught fire, but the fire was controlled by firefighters. The fire also damaged a tall highway sign for McDonald’s, Panda Express, 7Eleven and Togo’s.

CHP Eric Zuniga comments on the crash that killed a fuel tanker driver at and offramp from Highway 99 in Merced County.

The drainage system of the street’s stormwater and possibly sewer system was contaminated by leaking fuel.

Besides the fire, and leaking and burning fuel; the biggest dangers to pedestrians near the scene after the initial crash are projectiles flying a great distance from the blasts, and any vehicles that may be speeding away to evacuate the area. The Panda Express employees did a good job of evacuating their building, but probably should have cleared a little further from the scene for maximum safety.


Southbound Highway 99 in Merced County is shut down Tuesday morning due to a tanker truck fire that killed at least one person, Caltrans tweeted.




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NBC affiliate KCRA aerial video of Tuesday’s deadly tanker truck fire shows a charred drive-thru area at McDonald’s.