Sunday, April 29, 2007

Did a tanker truck really explode in Oakland?

The headline this morning seemed quite dramatic and shocking: "Tanker Explosion Causes East Bay Freeway Collapse." But wait, did a gasoline fuel tanker truck really "explode"? Actually, no.

Yes, there was an accident. Yes, there was a big fire. Yes, the heat of the fire was so intense that it caused a portion of the freeway interchange in the East Bay Area of California to collapse. But, in fact, there was no "explosion."

Even the lead paragraph of that article backs off from the graphic implication of the overly-lurid headline:

A freeway interchange that funnels traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed onto another highway ramp early Sunday after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and caught fire, authorities said.

Why would they feel that it is "okay" to call this an "explosion" when it was simply an intense fire?

And just to give you an idea of how not an explosion this incident was:

Although heat from the fire was intense enough to weaken the freeway and cause the collapse, the truck's driver walked away from the scene and called a taxi, which took him to a nearby hospital with second-degree burns, Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol said.

I'm not sure which is more disgusting, when a blogger resorts to such misleading language:

California Tanker Explosion

By Jennifer McMahon
Staff Writer-ToTheCenter.Com

Sunday morning a truck explosion rocked a bridge overpass in Oakland, California. The massive explosion caused much of the bridge to collapse onto the pavement below. A tanker truck carrying 8,600 gallons of
gasoline exploded, triggering the fire and then exploded causing the bridge to burn so hot that it melted.

Or when mainstream media does the same:

Section of Bay Area freeway collapses after truck explosion

That last story suggests that maybe overly-excited law enforcement officers may have "sparked" the exaggeration.

To be sure, not all of the media restored to exaggeration. Here's what Reuters had to say:

Fiery crash collapses vital California highway

By Kimberly White

EMERYVILLE, California (Reuters) - A stretch of vital highway for San Francisco Bay area commuters collapsed on Sunday after a fuel truck crashed and ignited dramatic flames more than 200 feet high, officials said.

Reuters at least knows how to appropriately use dramatic language without exaggerating.

-- Jack Krupansky

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