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Fatal crash, blast rock Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A tanker truck and a car collided on a downtown interstate Saturday, killing one person and sparking an explosion and fire that partially collapsed an overpass at one of the state's busiest interchanges.

Three people in the car escaped unharmed. At least one person in the truck was believed dead, fire department officials said. No identities were released.

The explosion around 10:30 a.m. sent black smoke and fire billowing into the sky.

Police spokesman Lt. Henry Irby said the 18-wheel truck and car were both northbound on I-65 and collided before the interchange with I-20 and I-59. "The tanker slid up under the I-65 bridge and exploded," Irby said.

A 50-foot section of the four-lane overpass was sagging about 8-10 feet, and Irby said officials feared it would fall.

Emma Tubbs of Bessemer said her son was driving the car in the collision and called her saying he had been hit from behind. She wouldn't give his name.

"When it hit, the car just spinned and spinned," Tubbs said. "We just thank God they're OK."

William Needham, who was working on a billboard overlooking the interchange, said he heard brakes squeal then saw the trailer sliding on its side.

"As soon as it hit the pillars up under the bridge it exploded. It blew the cab off the truck. It probably went 50 feet up in the air and came down," Needham said.

Authorities did not immediately identify the truck's cargo. But Needham said it appeared to be a fuel tanker.

Police Officer Lee Taylor said the state Department of Transportation planned to remove the portion of the bridge and reopen the interstate as soon as possible.

The interchange, commonly called Malfunction Junction because of its many accidents, connects Tuscaloosa and Birmingham with a flood of traffic from south Alabama.