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Witness: Tanker truck swerved into median wall before bursting into flames

'The tanker truck caught fire immediately,' said motorist Brian Cope who watched the crash unfold in front of him.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Motorist Brian Cope said that he was just behind Saturday's fiery wreck on Interstate 85 that claimed two lives when it occurred. 

"It looked like there was another accident and a car that had stopped in the middle of the road," he said. "The tanker truck that caught on fire swerved over maybe two or three lanes to miss it, and kind of corrected back and went into the divider on the right side of the highway and caught fire immediately."

The fire spilled into the lanes of the interstate and onto the service road alongside the highway.

Cope said that he was rear-ended in the midst of the carnage on the highway. 

But by the time he was able to look back up, he saw that the truck was fully engulfed in flames.

"It looked like gas was leaking into the storm drains," Cope said. "It got down the road, got to the other side of 85. (It) really just took off; there were some explosions. Some trees caught fire on the other side of 85. Some manhole covers popped up on our side."

He said he saw some flames shooting up from underneath the roadway.

Police initially told him to get back into his car -- then told him to get out and to move back 100 feet. Then another 100 feet. 

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"Then 100 yards," Cope said. "Then, they told us to get over the concrete wall and away from the highway." 

He said that ultimately, police moved motorists away by at least a half-mile from the crash.

The entire time, the thick, black smoke and flames could be seen billowing skyward from the crash scene itself.

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