Crews managed to clear the scene in less than five hours because the wreck happened on the shoulder of the road. The fire was so bad, most of the gasoline tanker burned to almost nothing -- making it easier to clear the interstate for morning commuters.
According to eyewitnesses, the tanker, which contained 8,100 gallons of gas, went off the shoulder and flipped over. Then it caught fire. Nearby woods were scorched and trees were burned.A group of witnesses ran to help the driver, who was yelling for help on the side of the road.
The truck driver, Anthony White is listed in critical condition at UNC hospitals, thanks to a passerby's who helped him escape from the burning truck.
"Me and my father and my cousin were driving down this highway, we seen the whole explosion the fire and the heat. We seen a guy trying to run over there so we all ran over there," witness Yasman Rodriguez said.
The guy, K.C. Minter, immediately rushed to help. He says he saw the tanker crash.
"Tanker truck came flying back to 40 to merge going about 7 to 80 mph, didn't make the turn, goes into the shoulder, slows up 2 to 3 seconds later all 40 was on fire," Minter said.
"We seen the driver and he is like 10 feet away from the truck, the heat was too much between the four of us, we dragged him a little bit, " Rodriguez added.
Rodriguez says he did not realize just how dangerously close they were to the fire.
"Man, I'm just, I don't even know what to think," Rodriguez said. "I just like never seen anything like this. He was burned really bad. He got tossed from the truck, and he was burned really bad -- tossed from the truck."
EMS put White, an employee of the Erwin Oil Company, on a stretcher and was taken to the hospital.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Erwin Oil Company released a statement thanking everyone who helped in the incident.
"We would like to express our sincerest thanks to Mr. Minton, Mr. Rodriquez and the other two Good Samaritans who helped pull Tony a safe distance from the scene of the accident and fire. Their selfless act of kindness to assist a fellow man in the face of danger shows their bravery, strong character and embodies the true meaning of the word hero in every sense. We commend them for their heroic actions," the release said. "We would also like to thank all the firemen, law enforcement officers and emergency responders for the professional manner in which they managed and handled the accident scene, as well as the staff of Wake Medical Center and the NC Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospital for the care they have provided. On behalf of Erwin Oil Company and the family of Tony White we want to thank everyone for the support and phone calls we have received and ask that you keep Tony and his family in your prayers during this emotional time."