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Stonington - The driver of a tractor-trailer was killed Saturday morning when his truck plunged off Interstate 95 just past the Exit 91 off-ramp, tumbled down an embankment onto Taugwonk Road and burst into flames.
The truck, according to state police Lt. J. Paul Vance, was carrying staging for Saturday's Carrie Underwood concert at MGM Grand at Foxwoods, though he didn't have details on the type of equipment. The show went on as planned.
I-95 northbound was closed for most of the morning and early afternoon, with vehicles diverted at Exit 88 in Groton onto Route 117 to Route 184 and permitted to re-enter the highway at Exit 92 in Pawcatuck. One lane reopened to traffic in the early afternoon, but Taugwonk Road remained closed into the evening as debris was removed.
State police said the incident happened at 8 a.m. The truck was traveling north in the left lane when it crossed the left shoulder and struck a metal-beam guardrail, damaging about 400 feet of the rail, according to police. The fuel tanks ruptured and ignited.
The truck jackknifed as it left the road, the box trailer sliding down an embankment, and the tractor pushed sideways - driver's side first - into a bridge abutment of the 95 overpass for Taugwonk Road. The tractor and the box separated, the trailer rolled onto its side and slid into the median, blocking the southbound shoulder of Taugwonk Road.
The tractor vaulted after striking the bridge, landing on the left side of the bridge wall, then fell from the bridge and landed upright on Taugwonk Road facing west. The truck was consumed by fire. The driver was unable to get out of the vehicle and died at the scene.
By 8:30 a.m., the tractor and trailer were charred heaps of rubble. The driver's identity, Vance said, would not be released until it is confirmed through dental records in the next few days. Vance said the driver was from out-of-state.
Preliminary observations indicate, one officer at the scene said, that the driver fell asleep because there didn't appear to be any skid marks on the highway surface.
It was not clear who owned the truck.