Fire erupts after tanker truck rolls over, blocking I-40 near Ozark

A tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned and caught fire Wednesday morning near Ozark, blocking the eastbound lanes of I-40 at Exit 35, resulting in one death.

OZARK, Ark. — A tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned and caught fire Wednesday morning near Ozark, blocking the eastbound lanes of I-40 at Exit 35.

Arkansas State Police (ASP) are reporting that 59-year-old James Rotenbury of Russellville died in the crash after the Arkansas Department of Transportation initially reported no injuries. 

According to the ASP fatality report, a witness at the scene told troopers that an unknown vehicle entered I-40 from the 35 mile marker on-ramp and pulled out in front of the tanker truck Rotenbury was driving. Rotenbury tried to take corrective action and swerved to the left and ran off the roadway. Rotenbury then entered the north side road ditch and tried to steer back into his lane. As a result, the truck overturned on its driver’s side. 

Arkansas State Police are now searching for the driver of a black GMC lowrider truck, possibly a GMC Canyon, without tags that they believe is the suspect that left the scene.  

The Franklin County Emergency Management initially recommended sheltering in place at home for residents north of I-40 near Ozark due to dangerous fumes from the accident. That recommendation has since been lifted. 

The fire spread across the median, causing both sides of the interstate to be temporarily blocked. The fire is now under control, according to Franklin County Emergency Management. 

Smoke from the fire could be seen miles away from the crash.  

I-40 at Exit 35 was closed until about 3 p.m., with traffic being diverted through Highway 64 in Ozark. 

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