Fuel tanker explodes on Route 128 in Needham

Steven Ryan

A fuel tanker struck a guardrail, rolled over and exploded Saturday morning after swerving to avoid a piece of road debris, resulting in a ball of fire that could be seen from miles away and the shutdown of Route 128 South.

The tanker was carrying 11,500 gallons of fuel on Route 128 South at about 5:40 a.m. when the driver, Kevin Power, 59, of Watertown, swerved to avoid a piece of metal debris on the road, just beyond Highland Avenue, according to Massachusetts State Police.

"That evasive maneuver caused the operator to lose control, strike the guardrail on the right side of the road and roll over along its side in the middle, right and breakdown lanes," State Police Trooper Eric Benson said. "Upon striking the guardrail, the 11,500 gallons [of fuel] ignited, engulfing the tanker in flames."

Only the driver, Power, was injured in the one-vehicle crash. He was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston with minor injuries.

Beth Pullman of Parker Road, which runs parallel to Route 128, was already awake and preparing for her morning walk when she heard the explosion.

"I heard a huge explosion, went outside and saw a big plume of smoke," Pullman said. "I guess it was like loud fireworks. Loud enough that it didn't make me race out to look, but something happened."

Pullman said none of her neighbors were woken by the explosion.

Benson said there was no indication Power was impaired while driving.

"My first thought was, 'Poor guy who is in there'," Pullman said. "I can't imagine how he escaped it."