State police identify truck driver killed in fiery crash in Groton – CT Insider

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An accident sparked a massive fire on the Gold Star Bridge that shut down Interstate 95 on Friday. 
A crash caused a massive fire Friday on the Gold Star Bridge in Groton that closed Interstate 95.
A crash on the Gold Star Bridge sparked a massive fire in New London area and shut down Interstate 95, police said.
GROTON — Connecticut State Police have identified a home heating oil truck driver who was killed in a rollover crash on the Gold Star Bridge that sparked a massive fire and shut down Interstate 95 in both directions for nearly two hours on Friday, officials said. 
Two southbound lanes reopened Friday evening, with more lanes expected to open between 11 a.m. and noon Saturday, according to Josh Morgan, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation. The agency will also open the on-ramp to the Gold Star Bridge from Bridge Street in Groton. However, it will be restricted to one lane. 
The pedestrian crossing, the shoulder and the acceleration lane will remain closed for the foreseeable future, he said.  
“There’ll still be some lane restrictions, but for the most part, the bridge will be open to full traffic in the next couple of hours,” he said. 
The truck driver was identified Friday night as Wallace Joseph Fauquet III, 42, of Deer Ridge Road in Stonington, according to state police. Two other people, a 58-year-old New London man driving a 2006 Toyota Avalon and his passenger, a 35-year-old Groton woman, sustained what are believed to be minor injuries, state police said. Both were transported to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London. 
One of the Toyota’s tires failed as the car neared the Gold Star Bridge on Interstate 95 South on Friday morning, according to state police. It came to a stop in the right acceleration lane of the bridge and was hit from behind by the oil truck around 11:17 a.m., state police said.
The crash caused the truck to spill about 2,200 gallons of oil, immediately igniting with thick, billowing smoke that could be seen for miles, Gov. Ned Lamont said during a news conference later in the day near the bridge. State police said the truck overturned in the collision.
“My heart goes out to the family of the truck driver,” Lamont said. The governor said flames were following the oil that was running down drain pipes off the bridge into the Thames River below. 
The state’s largest bridge, built in 1973, carries 60,000 vehicles each day between Groton and New London, DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said. The bridge was last restored and repaired in 2018, he said. 
DOT cameras on the bridge showed smoke billowing from the southbound crash site around Exit 86 in Groton. Both vehicles, the truck and the Toyota, were engulfed in flames along with portions of the bridge itself, according to state police. A bridge inspection team was deployed immediately to investigate the structure, DOT Director of Communications Kafi Rouse said. 
“When they are given the all-clear, they will go in to assess the bridge and whatever damage,” Rouse said. “It’s too early to tell how much damage they will find.” 
Morgan said crews worked throughout the night to remove the damaged railing and fencing from the southbound side. Afterward, they started installing new railing on the bridge and a temporary chain-link fence.
As of Saturday morning, workers were cleaning up debris from the highway. They also installed environmental booms in the catch basins as the bridge’s drainage system was damaged in the fire, and the forecast calls for rain, he said. 
New London police said an off-duty lieutenant, Cornelius Rodgers, was among several people who stopped at the scene of the crash to help pull an injured occupant of the Toyota to safety “just before it became engulfed in flames from the explosive load of the tanker truck.”
“Your impressive determined efforts … displayed extreme heroism, character, and a relentless life-saving commitment under enormously challenging conditions,” police wrote in a Facebook post addressing Rodgers directly at 9:07 p.m. Friday. “Thank you for your commitment to service. We salute you.”
video clip posted on the social media platform TikTok appeared to capture the moment the car occupant was rescued. 
Troopers with Troop E of Montville responded to the scene, according to state police. Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick said firefighters from Rhode Island and North Stonington helped battle the blaze, which included secondary fires caused by flaming debris. Firefighters from New London and several other towns and the nearby U.S. Navy submarine base and Electric Boat shipyard also helped fight the fire, he said. 
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was at the scene to discard water contaminated by oil, he said. A DEEP official with Lamont said at least three booms have been deployed to capture about 85 percent of the oil that had seeped into the river. 
“I’ve never seen anything like it other than when I went through firefighter training in the Navy,” Hedrick said of the thick smoke and flames. 
A man from Groton shot dramatic video of the blaze while driving over the bridge at 11:20 a.m. Three-foot-high flames and columns of black smoke can be seen lapping at the pavement for a long stretch in the video. 
“I saw a giant cloud of smoke and a line of fire,” said Chris Stevens, who lives in Groton and was headed over the southbound side of the bridge to get to a gym in Waterford. “The closer you got, you just saw a wall of fire and you could feel the heat. Everyone was driving in the left breakdown lane to avoid it.”
The wall of fire spanned nearly the entire bridge and the smoke was so high and thick that Stevens said he couldn’t see most of the vehicles involved in the accident that caused the fire.
“I could see one car, that was it,” he said. 
Stevens was on the bridge before firefighters arrived, he said. The only way around the bridge to get back to Groton would be to go to the casinos in Ledyard, he said. 
State police said the crash is under investigation by Troop E, the agency’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad and the Truck Squad of the agency’s Traffic Services Unit. 
Witnesses or anyone who may have dashcam footage of the crash can contact Troop E at 860-848-6500.
Staff writer Liz Hardaway contributed to this report.