Businesses reopen after massive tanker explosion in Atwater

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The melted street lights are gone, crews have started cutting through gutters, and next week they plan to start tearing up the asphalt. (KFSN)

Businesses are now open along Applegate Road after a tanker truck explosion. However, the road leading into those businesses is still closed for repair.

Clean up is moving very quickly. The melted street lights are gone, crews have started cutting through gutters, and next week they plan to start tearing up the asphalt.

But, at this point, city officials say there's no set date on when the street or the off ramps will reopen because they want to make sure it's safe before they let anyone come through.

"We have to make sure that asphalt that was burned up is going to be replaced and that the road will be worthy of traffic again," Atwater mayor Jim Price said.

On Tuesday, a gas tanker truck overturned and burst into flames. The fuel spread down the street and into the gutters, extending the blaze as well as the damage.

"We've been able to eradicate the residual fuel that's down inside the storm drains," Price said. "Things are progressing at a pretty rapid pace"

Kimkyo Gnotsavath was driving the truck and was killed in the crash. He was a driver for William's Tank Lines. Action News crews drove to Stockton on Friday to speak with the company, but they declined to comment on camera.

The company did send this statement stating, "The May 23 accident is under investigation, as is protocol. Out of respect for the integrity of the review process, our company will not comment on the case until the official investigation is complete. The company is cooperating fully with authorities."

Records from the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration also shows that the company has had 21 collisions since 2015 - two of those were fatal.

The CHP says some witnesses have said the truck was on fire prior to the collision, however, they're still looking for surveillance video to determine what exactly happened.

"There's nothing that indicates the vehicle was on fire prior to the crash," Eric Zuniga with the CHP said. "We're trying to address that."

While the ramp remains closed, businesses are now open. Togos owner Givo Ishaya says they opened Friday, but with the ramp being closed, it's a hit to businesses nearby.

"For travelers, we get a lot of highway traffic during these weekends," Ishaya said. "And that's going to be cut off for us for a little while."

CHP says the MAIT Team is involved in this investigation. They do a lot of measurements of the scene, however, Action News did confirm they will not need to recreate the scene for this investigation.

With the recent accidents along Highway 99 with big rigs. They say this weekend, they will definitely be upping patrol along the highway for the holiday.

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merced countyexplosionAtwater
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