The harrowing video of a fuel-laden tanker truck rolling off a raised highway bridge on Interstate 95 in Baltimore and exploding into a fireball on the railroad tracks below will be crucial evidence, authorities say, as they work to piece together how a deadly 67-vehicle crash unfolded Saturday morning on Interstate 95.
Lt. Kevin Ayd, spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said he first saw the cellphone video — shot from the opposite side of the highway by motorist Marvellous Amasiatu — the same way most people did: on social media, where it quickly went viral.
"It really does play a significant and key role in our investigation," Ayd said. "What started it? What happened? We can look at it from a video standpoint. Can we tell the conditions? ... That was very good footage, and key to the case we have will be that video."
Authorities on Sunday did not name the tanker driver or the other person who died in the 5 a.m. crash on I-95 North between Caton Avenue and Washington Boulevard. They were working to contact the victims' families.
Of the 23 people taken to the University of Maryland Medical Center after the crash, seven remained at Maryland Shock Trauma Center on Sunday. Two were in critical condition, two in serious condition and three in fair condition, the hospital said.
A third person died after a different crash Saturday on I-95 near Eastern Avenue. He fled the crash and fell or jumped off the elevated highway, MdTA police said.
Police information technology professionals investigating the larger crash plan to slow down the video to see whether it contains any hints to explain what caused the crash, Ayd said.
They also plan to look at photos from the scene and scour social media for any additional documentation of the incident.
Investigators asked that anyone who was involved in the crash and hasn't talked to police, or who saw anything that could help detectives understand the events that led to it, call them at 410-537-1208.
While the ice on the roadway is expected to be the main factor, police want to know whether anyone saw anything unusual — an erratic driver or some problem on the bridge — that could have played a role.
"When we reconstruct the crash, we don't just start at the crash," Ayd said. "We go back maybe a day or so."
Crews from the Maryland Department of the Environment determined that most of the fuel in the tanker burned in the fire, spokesman Jay Apperson said Sunday.
"We see minimal environmental impact at this point," Apperson said.
Crews spent much of Saturday clearing vehicles with tow trucks and construction equipment, and all lanes were reopened in both directions by about 10:30 p.m., Ayd said.
The I-95 crash was the largest of hundreds of collisions in the area as cars slipped and slid on icy roads.
A 15-car pileup on the Baltimore Beltway at Southeast Freeway at 5:30 a.m. Saturday closed the inner loop for hours. Nine people were taken to area hospitals.
Maryland State Police said they responded to 377 crashes Saturday. Fifty-six involved injuries.
Police counted 131 crashes that disabled vehicles and 190 in which vehicles were drivable after they sustained minor damage.
Police responded to 95 vehicles that were disabled or in which motorists were stranded.