BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) – A tractor-trailer truck crashed through a guardrail and plunged 50 feet off an Interstate 91 bridge Tuesday, bursting into flames and killing the driver.

The accident closed the interstate in both directions for nearly four hours, and the northbound lanes remained closed as of 4:30 p.m. A spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Transportation said one northbound lane was to be opened Tuesday night.

The accident occurred about 7:30 a.m. when the truck – which was headed to Andover, N.H., from Union, N.J. – collided with another vehicle and then went off the bridge, landing on an embankment in a residential area.

The truck driver wasn’t immediately identified. Trooper Tara Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Vermont State Police, said the identity won’t be released until an autopsy is performed Wednesday.

The driver and a passenger in the second vehicle were treated for non-life threatening injuries. No one else was hurt.

State transportation officials said the flames did no structural damage to the bridge, but that 130 feet of guardrail was destroyed.

The accident prompted state officials to map alternate evacuation routes at the nearby Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, where operations were normal on Tuesday.

Brattleboro police and firefighters, Vermont State Police and a hazardous materials team responded to the scene.

Officials said the driver may have lost control due to ice and slush on the highway.

“We’ll take at least through week’s end to repair the guardrail,” said John Zicconi, a spokesman for the state Agency of Transportation.

“Even though there’s only 130 feet of guardrail missing, we need to taper the road so the traffic can merge safely. The Jersey barrier and the taper is much longer than that, and we have a sign package that needs to go up whenever you go from two lanes to one on an interstate,” Zicconi said.

AP-ES-02-05-08 1642EST


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