PHOENIX -- A motorcycle rider was killed in a fiery crash that closed the southbound lanes of Interstate 17 at Thomas Road Monday afternoon. The Interstate reopened shortly before 9 p.m.
The multiple-vehicle crash was caused by some gas cylinders that fell off of a flatbed truck at about 3 p.m. Monday, according to witnesses.
A Chevrolet Suburban attempted to avoid the load by braking, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. A motorcyclist following behind stopped suddenly in front of a semitruck. The semitruck hit the motorcycle, forcing it into the Suburban.
Witnesses said they heard four explosions and then saw a ball of fire and smoke in the air.
The fire flash burned the motorcyclist and the semitruck, according to the Phoenix Fire Department.
The motorcycle rider was rushed to a hospital in very critical condition with trauma and burn injuries. He later died, according to Officer Carrick Cook with DPS. He has been identified as Steven Mathew Daniels, 27, of Sun City.
"Several fires exploded. We don't know if it's the gasoline tanks from the motorcycle or diesel tanks from the truck or what the compressed cylinders were carrying," said Capt. Tony Mure with the Phoenix Fire Department. "There was a traumatic trauma situation to the motorcyclist. Several cars were damaged severely and also several explosions of fire."
The Suburban was carrying a family of six. Maria D. Robles De Palomino, 47, and Angelica De Palomino, 27, both of Phoenix, were transported to a hospital for minor injuries. DPS said both women were wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.
The semitruck driver escaped the burning vehicle without injury. Charles Willis Ashe, 45, of Chino Valley, also was using his seat belt.
Firefighters said the driver of the flatbed truck that lost the cylinders probably does not even know what happened. DPS officers are looking for the driver of that truck.
"The original truck that caused the accident, losing the load is either unaware of the incident or left the scene, but he is not on the scene so highway patrol is trying to look for that truck to get hold of that driver," Mure said.
The accident is being investigated as a homicide. "That person should have stopped or made contact with us right away," officers say.
The interstate was closed for several hours.
1 person has died southbound on 17 at Thomas. DPS is looking for a flatbed semi truck who lost its has cylinders who left the scene— Officer Carrick Cook (@DPSOfficerCook) January 21, 2014