AUSTIN (KXAN) — An SUV slammed into the back of an Amazon Prime semi-truck early Monday morning and burst into flames, killing the SUV’s driver, and shutting down all westbound lanes of State Highway 71 near Montopolis Drive.
Police say the semi was parked on the shoulder of SH 71 when the SUV hit it at a very high rate of speed. Witnesses say the fire happened almost instantaneously.
“A big fireball basically hit the 18-wheeler. There was no chance of them even getting to the car that was underneath the trailer,” eyewitness Kendall Edgmon said.
The crash occurred at 2 a.m., and as of 7 a.m. the SUV had been towed, but the 18-wheeler and debris from the crash remained on SH 71’s main lanes. Crews tell our Candy Rodriguez it could still take several more hours to reopen those lanes. Traffic is being detoured to the frontage road. Eastbound SH 71 traffic was not impacted except for onlooker delays.
Both the SUV and the semi caught fire after the crash. You could see fire damage on the car and along the back third of the 18-wheeler. Police believe the SUV was moving very fast when it hit the semi.
“It’s going to be difficult I think to determine exactly how fast, but just from what we’ve seen on scene it was traveling at a high rate of speed,” Austin Police Sgt. Robert Thompson said.
Dispatchers received multiple 9-1-1 calls about the crash, including one from the driver of the 18-wheeler. That driver was not injured.
Police said fire crews had to keep watch over the semi truck for several hours to put out hot spots.
IN-DEPTH: Amazon semi truck had ‘Mansfield bar’
The 18-wheeler was equipped with a rear underride bar on the back of the trailer, police say. The SUV hit the semi truck at such a high rate of speed though, it still went partially underneath the trailer, shearing off the top front portion of the SUV.
The rear underride bar is commonly called a Mansfield bar, named for actress Jayne Mansfield, who died in a similar crash in 1967. The tractor-trailer her car hit did not have a bar, and the actress’ car went completely underneath the trailer.
Mansfield’s three children were in the backseat at the time and survived. They included actress Mariska Hargitay who was just three years old at the time.
Mansfield’s death forced lawmakers and car safety experts to rethink the design of tractor trailers. They came up with the rear underride bars to help prevent similar crashes.
In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it will soon require mandatory inspections of rear underride guards