FRANKLIN, Tenn. -
All lanes of Interstate 65 at Peytonsville Road in Franklin reopened Sunday afternoon following a deadly tanker truck explosion early Friday morning that damaged the overpass bridge. Both north and southbound lanes reopened around 1:40 p.m., nearly a day ahead of the projected schedule.
Workers closed traffic in both directions to tear down the bridge that carries Peytonsville Road over I-65. They also plan to tear down the adjacent bridge that has been under construction.
TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges said, “This work will be done on an accelerated schedule. It will not be done like a regular bid item.”
The beams for the bridge repair should arrive in October and the bridge should reopen in November.
The tanker collided with a support beam of the Peytonsville Road overpass while traveling south on I-65 just before 4 a.m. Friday and burst into flames.
The explosion actually split the truck in two. Crews were able to extinguish the massive blaze in 30 minutes.
The heat from the fire was so intense Degges said parts of concrete came loose from some of the steel support beams. Steel cables inside older concrete beams were also damaged by the blast.
The tanker belonged to Edwards Oil Company in Lawrenceburg. The driver, 67-year-old Bobby Bobo, was killed.
Edwards Oil Co. General Manager Oneal Stanford told News 2 he was the “most seasoned” and “safest” driver they had.
Bobo would've celebrated his 40th anniversary with the company next month.
"[Bobby] was a people person every day, always jolly,” Stanford said. “He enjoyed getting up and leaving out every night. He chose night driving, that was his choice."
"He was loved by everybody, just never had any problems out of this individual,” he continued, adding, “He's a longtime friend. It's a tragic loss for the company and an emotional time for us."
Maury County Sheriff Enoch George grew up with Bobo and was upset after learning of his passing.
“I've known Bobby since we were kids,” Sheriff George said. “We went to school together in a little three room school for a period of time.”
The sheriff also said as soon as he saw the news early Friday morning, he had a premonition it was his good friend.
“First thing in my mind was, 'That's my buddy,'” he said.
The tanker was carrying unleaded gasoline, although it's not clear how much. Bobo, of Columbia, had two more stops on his route at the time of the crash.
The explosion rocked witnesses inside a nearby truck stop.
"It was so loud I thought a building was exploding,” Lonnie Spears told News 2, adding, “I saw metal flying off the bridge like popcorn. Getting off to rest [at the truck stop] probably saved my life."
"The entire southbound side and even the bridge was on fire," said Tony Trombo, who was traveling in the area at the time of the crash. "I couldn't actually see what was on fire because it was so bad."
Williamson County resident Ron Rowlett told News 2 the area is accident prone.
"We see accidents at this exit on a daily basis. My heart goes out to his family, but this is a fairly common occurrence because the ramp near the exit is very short," he said.
Bobo's funeral will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Heritage Funeral Home. The family will visit with attendees beginning at 4 p.m.
Bobo is survived by his wife and four sons.
On Tuesday, five days after the deadly accident, the Bobo family released a statement that read in part, “The Bobo family wants the community of Peytonsville and Williamson County to know that they regret any and all inconveniences that this tragedy may have caused both communities. This is about more than a bridge. A bridge can be rebuilt, but a human life cannot.”
The statement continued, “Bobby Bobo was a great man. He was a father, husband, granddad and much more to his community.”
School officials are urging parents to consider putting their children on school buses rather than driving them to and from school in an effort to alleviate traffic in and around school zones during the re-construction of the Peytonsville Road overpass.
Employers with the ability to flex employee hours are encouraged to do so to relieve some of the expected I-65 and detour route commuter congestion.