tv Caught on Camera MSNBC May 28, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PDT
massive industrial accidents lead to unbelievable explosions. >> we just had a huge explosion. >> gas leaks leveled buildings. >> it was the biggest explosion i had ever seen. >> gas stations erupt into infernos. and rescue workers put it all on the line. >> it was the closest call i've had. >> dire circumstances. >> i'm thinking there's no way somebody's going to live through that. >> disaster, heroism, survival. >> i can't believe i'm alive. >> you won't believe your eyes. >> boom! it went up.
hello. i'm contessa brewer. welcome to "caught on camera." dangerous materials are used every day, usually without incident, because safeguards are in place to minimize risks. but natural disasters and man-made accidents happen all too frequently, and when highly flammable materials are involved, an emergency situation can become a fireball. may 15th, 2009. firefighters in texas are battling a blaze at a tank facility that stores oil, gas and sea water. just when they think they have the fire under control, a flare erupts from the tank on the right. it's not a good sign. and in a matter of seconds, the tank launches into the air like a rocket. >> everything went bright. the heat was real intense. >> a ball of fire races toward
firefighters who are forced to run for their lives. >> you just think this could be the day for all of us. it was a violent, violent explosion. >> seconds later, another tank explodes. >> when the second tank exploded, and that's when the debris was flying everywhere and about a ten-foot piece of pipe took the fence out in front of us as we was going out. >> dangerous shrapnel from the destroyed tanks rains down on everyone. including the cameraman. >> holy mother of god. >> well, yeah, it scared the crap out of me, honestly. >> david drummond barely escapes being struck but his car is badly damaged by a flying piece of pipe while he films the event. >> god almighty. that hit right there. >> you okay? >> yeah. i'm fine. it took out the front of my vehicle. >> are you serious? >> yeah. >> it landed on the left front fender and hood where they come together and it landed with such force that it actually bent the
frames underneath, pretty much totaled it because of the damage. >> hours earlier, drummond, a storm chaser, begins following a violent storm that might spawn a tornado. but instead, only brings hail and lightning to west texas. >> there was a huge lightning strike, bigger and louder than normal. i thought that must have hit something, and shortly after that, i heard on the scanner that tones went out for the fire department. >> the lightning strike starts a fire at the tank facility that separates oil and gas from sea water used during drilling. the fire department arrives to find three tanks fully engulfed and more tanks that could catch fire at any moment. >> there were four other tanks that was in close proximity to those tanks that were actively burning, and i didn't want to lose all of the tanks. >> with no tornadoes to chase, drummond decides to drive to the fire and starts recording the scene. >> i thought well, you know, i didn't get that much weather
video today, i'm going to go and maybe shoot some of that. they might want it for the news. >> firefighters use both foam and water. the foam starves the fire of oxygen and the water keeps the other tanks cool. after almost two hours of work, they extinguish two of the tanks and set their sights on the tall one in the middle. >> they were doing an excellent job with it. they had knocked the actual fire down considerably. >> but this fire has a mind of its own. and suddenly, goes on the offensive, catching firefighters by surprise. >> i didn't know that the tank was going to rupture that violently. it really happened really fast. at that point in time, you almost become like a deer in headlights. you almost freeze. >> the tank starts to flare fire through a relief valve that vents gas. to firefighters, the flare is a signal that the tank might explode, and they begin to retreat seconds before it blows up. >> i heard it erupt inside the tank before the flare went off.
that's what startled me, got my attention. at that time, we was basically looking for an escape route. >> somehow, firefighters survive the cloud of flames with only minor injuries. >> we had a sprained ankle, extended knee. i had slight hearing loss in my left ear. it come back shortly after that. our firefighting experience helped but the grace of god was -- was the main reason. >> the tall tank in the middle called the gun barrel separates oil from water. the explosion occurs when the oil, made dangerously hot by the fire, flows through a pipe into the smaller tank that contains raw crude oil. >> there's a scavenge line up high on the side of the gun barrel that scavenges raw crude oil off the top of the barrel and dumps it into two holding tanks on the east end of the facility. >> the video shows the super-heated glob of oil funnel from the gun barrel into the holding tank, where it ignites the raw crude inside.
seconds later, the flare erupts. then the tank blows up. >> it went up over our heads. i'm going to say every bit of 200 feet high. i could still see the tank today with fire coming out of the bottom of it as it's spinning going through the air. it landed about 75 or 80 yards away from us. we were very fortunate it didn't come down on one of our personnel or our apparatus. >> the tank next to it explodes soon after but this one stays anchored to the ground. >> the next explosion was the second holding tank that had raw crude oil in it. that tank separated at the top and only the top came off. >> just as dangerous as the explosions, the falling shower of hot, twisted metal. >> i'm not talking about small pieces. i'm talking about 20 foot long pieces of pipe that come through there like helicopter blades. we were just fortunate no one got hit. >> god almighty.
that hit right there. >> you okay? >> yeah, i'm fine. it took out the front of my vehicle. >> are you serious? >> yeah. >> there was some other pieces ended up hitting the ground. there's one of them. you can see by the size of my shoe how big that is. >> the blast leaves its mark on the first responders of this small texas town. >> it was the closest call i've had. we've had some hair-raising experiences. this one stands out from the rest of them. >> the firefighters have no idea their near-death experience is caught on camera, and the video becomes a training tool for the fire department and others. >> we've learned a lot from this fire. our operating procedures are different today. our respect is different. >> south korea. 25 miles outside seoul. a fire breaks out at a liquefied petroleum filling station in 1998.
on site are hundreds of tanks that could explode, and a tanker truck ready to blow sky-high. thousands are evacuated from the densely packed city neighborhood as firefighters use water to try to cool down the canisters and keep them from rupturing. tv news crews on the ground and in the air record the chaotic scene as the fire grows bigger, but what the camera can't see is massive underground storage tanks filled with tons of the highly flammable liquid gas that is used to fuel cars. the inferno rages out of control. there's nothing firefighters can do. the tanks keep catching fire. finally, the flames reach the underground tanks, and they ignite. a massive fireball launches into the air. the enormous blast consumes an entire city block, and is felt
for miles. thick smoke consumes the entire sky. dozens of vehicles are scorched by the inferno and several nearby buildings are set on fire. police report 30 people, eight of them firefighters, are injured during the disaster. incredibly, there are no fatalities. coming up -- a gas station blows sky-high. an 18-wheeler crashes and burns. and a freight train releases a vapor cloud that ignites.
yellow and orange flames raging out of control. towering clouds of thick smoke turn from the inferno. firefighters try to contain the chemical fuel blaze but it's an uphill battle. the flames spread through the facility and find storage tanks of chemicals that erupt, causing a gigantic fireball. as day turns to night, huge bright clouds of fire rip through the dark sky. officials warn residents to keep windows and doors shut as toxic clouds of smoke billow into the air. the fire is so intense, shipping traffic on the nearby river is suspended for safety. it takes 200 firefighters two full days to bring the massive fire under control. fortunately, none of the 50 employees of the chemical facility or any firefighters are injured.
>> you might want to back your units up. >> a train carrying propylene, a highly flammable petrochemical used in manufacturing blows up in texarcana, arkansas early in the morning, october 15th, 2005. a police car's dashboard camera captures the massive explosion. with no time to turn around, the officer throws his car into reverse and races backwards to escape the growing river of fire coming right at him. >> it was quite massive. just as far as you could see, just nothing but flames. >> the disaster starts when officer randy mcadams is finishing up the night shift. a moving freight train hits a parked train at the texarcana depot, causing a derailment but not an explosion. >> could you call back and see if they can ascertain exactly which car is overturned and maybe what the contents of the
car was? >> it's not like a regular car accident. it can be thousands of gallons of very toxic chemicals up to maybe nothing leaking at all. kind of have to get there and investigate and determine what's going on. >> officer mcadams is one of the first on the scene. >> i've got some kind of chemical smell. i'm backing up. it's slowly drifting further south. >> he notices gas seeping out and spreading in a dangerous vapor cloud. >> i see kind of what looked like a light fog, chemical that was leaking was heavier than air so it kept to the low ground. the chemical cloud was actually following me, circling me up, so i retreated back. >> the fire department also responds, but battalion chief rick pavick doesn't see the vapor cloud. he's taken completely by surprise when the gas finds an ignition source and erupts 500 feet away.
>> it was real crazy. it was amazing, is what it was, just to be that close to something that large and watch it spread out. >> when the gas ignites, officer mcadams' dash cam records the initial sound, but the explosion is out of view. the police dispatcher has a clear view of the train tracks and radios officer mcadams. >> we just had a huge explosion. we've got massive fire out here. >> as officer mcadams starts backing up, the flames race down the track and into the camera's view. as the gas explodes over and over again. >> anywhere that vapor from the chemicals had gone just burned, whether it was on the ground, in the air. just nothing but a ball of fire and like a big fuse, it just kept going further and further. >> it was a big mushroom shaped fireball. it went up in the middle and then kind of cascaded down. >> you might want to back your units up.
>> didn't have time to really get scared because once it started happening, i just started reacting, you know. can't sit there and be scared or i wouldn't have made it through it. >> gigantic clouds of fire soar into the morning sky. >> i can try to explain it to my friends or people who ask me about it, and i can never explain it properly until you see the video and you just see it's unreal. >> firefighters believe the gas finds an ignition source inside one of the nearby houses. they watch homes get blown apart right in front of their eyes and fear people might be caught in the blast. >> i was 500 feet away from the three houses that exploded. when the flames mushroomed up, they were completely destroyed. >> several electrical explosions follow as the fire rages out of control. >> i had already had a plan of action in my head and then when it blew up, it changed everything. the first thought that went through my head was you know,
okay, what do we do now. >> hundreds of nearby residents and a nursing home are evacuated. >> they said everybody over in the college hill area, you need to evacuate. >> firefighters are on the scene for more than 12 hours. the charred remains of cars and debris are a testament to the ferocity of the chemical-fueled inferno that claims one life, a 61-year-old woman who lived in one of the destroyed homes. an investigation finds the cause of the train accident to be lack of attention by the train crew. >> by far that was the biggest explosion i had ever seen, possibly even on video, but for sure in person. it's still unreal. >> officer mcadams feels fortunate to have made it through alive, and says this incident will always be with him. >> there's no doubt i'll remember it the rest of my life. it was massive. i come across by the tracks and there's any kind of fog in the area, it all hits home pretty
hard. >> coming up -- a meteor crashes to the earth. power lines fry a tree, then erupt. and an explosion steals the show during a tv interview. [ dog ] i am a pro baller. 11 years playing the outfield, and i got no plans to retire. [ female announcer ] aging may slow a dog down, but iams helps keep dogs playing year after year with our age-specific nutrition. and now, even for dogs 11 and older with new iams senior plus. it helps boost the immune response to that of an adult dog and helps fight signs of aging. [ dog ] i'll never be a bench-warmer. [ female announcer ] new iams senior plus. see the iams difference or your money back. [ dog ] i am an iams dog for life.
october 3rd, 2009. a large tree makes contact with a section of power lines on a residential street in bellingham, washington. the branches start smoldering, then ignite. >> there goes the first piece of branch. >> the wind would gust and it would blow it into the power line. >> caleb lives across the street and starts recording the unusual event on his cell phone as his neighbors begin to gather and watch. >> at that point, like we had already called the fire department. it seemed like most people were just kind of standing around, eyes to the sky.
>> this is amazing. >> this is ridiculous. >> powerful jolts of electricity pulse through the tree, down to the ground, over and over again. >> i think it was like a 24,000 volt power line. i think that's what the energy company said. >> making matters worse, the wind pushes the large tree harder on to the surging power lines. >> now it's really heating up. >> looks further down, too. oh, my gosh! >> there's nothing the spectators can do as the fire moves down the center of the tree. >> i'm moving back a little bit. i can feel that. >> there's kind of the bzzz sound and you could feel it throughout your entire body. i could feel it in my chest, just pulsating. being there was just surreal.
>> but the flaming tree is just getting started. caleb and his neighbors have no idea an explosion is seconds away. the tree begins to pulse like a neon sign and then -- >> holy [ bleep ]! >> there was like this flash of light and a very, very loud, just insanely loud like a bomb going off. >> but it's not over yet. after a brief pause, electricity surges through the tree once again. >> and the crazy thing was, there was that first explosion and then we're like whoa, that was crazy, and then it starts again, like bzzz, bzzz and then boom! >> the blast affects more than just the tree. it knocks out power throughout
town. >> it actually blew a circuit breaker which shut down power to all of downtown bellingham for several hours. >> that was like five minutes of burning. yeah. like obliteration. >> after caleb stops recording, the fire department arrives. the tree is sprayed with water and cut down, but its fiery final moments are forever caught on camera. >> it was just amazing, especially coming from electricity. it's kind of a rare, awesome moment. >> august 16th, 2009. a fire breaks out at a warehouse on the trans-alaska highway in fort st. john, british columbia. >> we had no idea what was in there, really. just the color of the smoke was a clear indicator it had a heavy hydrocarbon base to it.
>> firefighters soon learn of a hidden danger. large quantities of methanol, a highly flammable liquid, are inside the warehouse. >> 138 barrels of a methanol-based product that were being stored there for delivery, and there was other products in there that were acid-based products, even the residual atmosphere around the building also became very toxic. >> the warehouse is completely engulfed in flames as firefighters struggle to contain the blaze. >> the fire was obviously out of control and we were trying to get it under control. the chief turned to me and said this is going to be pretty serious because we can't, you know, once it starts to run like that, that's very difficult to extinguish. >> freelance cameraman andrew tolosky arrives and begins recording the raging inferno. >> by the time i got to the scene, i had figured out this was not an ordinary fire by any means. >> the massive blaze has much more in store for firefighters. suddenly, there's a huge explosion.
it's one of several andrew captures. >> i have never seen anything like that before. it was unreal. the fireballs were huge. they didn't make much sound but they were hot, and you could really feel the heat. >> the eruptions put firefighters in serious danger. >> we were operating an aerial ladder at that time so my first concern was to make sure those guys on the ladder were okay. the chief did that. he confirmed that they were safe. >> the fireballs are the result of the chemical canisters melting and the flammable liquid inside exploding. >> the methanol-based product is what provided the entertainment. >> after working into the night to bring the blaze under control, chief fred burrows begins an on-scene interview with andrew about the fire. >> we had portions of the building collapse -- >> the chief thinks the explosions have stopped but right in the middle of the interview, the fire unleashes its biggest blast of the night. >> any injuries or --
>> not at this time. that was a bit warm. >> honestly, i thought we had pretty much ran out of material to burn at that point but apparently there was a couple waiting for us. >> the explosion caused by the last containers of methanol happens four hours after the fire begins, startling the chief and his crew. >> he was obviously concerned, as were we, because it was honestly quite a miracle that there was nobody injured in this, or killed. >> firefighters continue spraying water throughout the night. finally putting out the stubborn blaze. all that's left of the warehouse is rubble. coming up -- a street erupts like a volcano. >> i can't believe i'm alive. >> a tunnel blows up.
meteor makes when it enters earth's atmosphere. it's an incredible sight that few people have the opportunity to witness. and this is your chance. november 20th, 2008. a peace officer in the small canadian town of devon, alberta is cruising the streets at 5:30 in the evening when suddenly, a ball of fire blazes through the sky. the spectacular sight is a meteor that grows brighter as it shoots towards earth and it's all recorded on the officer's dash cam. a meteor this brilliant is known as a fireball. the international astronomical union defines a fireball as a meteor brighter than any of the planets. most meteors burn up in the atmosphere but some crash into earth where they make craters and break into smaller pieces called meteorites. several meteorites are found after this recording is made.
the whole event appears on camera for just five breathtaking seconds. south korea, 2005. a military truck carrying surface to air missile parts breaks down inside a heavily trafficked tunnel near the city of tagoo. the truck's brakes have overheated and catch fire. it's captured by two cameras inside the tunnel, one in front of the truck and one behind it. an already dangerous situation now turns dire, since the dismantled missiles contain solid rocket fuel. the driver tries a fire extinguisher, but the flames only grow bigger. thick, acrid smoke fills the mile-long tunnel as everyone inside runs for their lives. where there's smoke, there's fire. seconds later, the truck explodes.
more than 100 firefighters respond to the disaster but there's little they can do besides let the fire burn itself out. missile parts litter the road. officials say the explosion is actually caused by the truck's gas tank rupturing, not the solid rocket fuel which burns up in the fire. fortunately, everyone inside the tunnel is able to make it out before the blast, and there are no casualties. january 18th, 2011. a tv news cameraman's videotaping workers responding to a gas leak in the tacony neighborhood of philadelphia when all of a sudden, the ground erupts. >> all you see is just this flash of light and this giant plume of smoke just rocket up into the sky, followed shortly by fire and sparkles of light, and just debris falling all
around. >> cameraman jeff nichols captures the yellow-orange fireball. the explosion blows dangerous chunks of concrete and other debris into the air. >> you can see in the left corner of the screen that this panel of debris just kind of floats down from the sky and hits one gentleman in the back. >> nichols arrives at the scene 20 minutes before the blast, expecting to capture utility workers fixing the leak. >> as a news videographer, you've done these stories before. it's usually nothing much. you might smell a little bit of gas or propane kind of smell. doesn't ever really amount to anything. this, however, was a different time. >> nichols sets up his camera at what he thinks is a safe distance, until he realizes the utility workers are not actually sure where the leaking gas is coming from. >> there was a hesitation from everyone, just an unknowingness of what was happening, of where this gas was coming from, am i in a safe area.
>> despite his uneasiness, nichols stays where he is and goes to work. >> i had a close-up shot of the two gentlemen walking out of the building and all of a sudden, you see this flash of light hit them in the face. >> right in front of his camera, the street blows sky-high and emergency workers start to scramble. >> there's just this sense of chaos that just immediately erupts from this explosion, from everyone around. >> as the fire rages in front of him, nichols becomes concerned he might be too close but holds his ground and continues to record. >> there's that split second that you're wondering is debris going to fall on me, are there metal shards and roofing going to cut me or hit me right in the body. >> falling debris isn't the only thing to worry about. nichols fears there could be another explosion. >> part of you wanted to flee, because your instinct is to run away from these things,
especially getting hit with a heat wave in the face. part of you as a journalist, as a videographer, wants to stay. >> the fire, fueled by the leaking gas, continues to burn uncontrollably. nichols records the dramatic scene and soon learns the story has taken a tragic turn. >> need a medic over here. >> i thought to myself, someone has to be killed in this. sure enough, it did. the 19-year-old public gas worker. >> the young victim, mark keeley, is found buried in the debris of a destroyed building. his friends and family are devastated. >> i didn't think there's any way. there's so many pgw, no way it could be any of my friends. when i woke up the next morning, heard the news, it was heartbreaking. >> four gas workers and a firefighter suffer injuries. the blast destroys several buildings in the area, including the apartment building of nearby resident jim mcnickel. he loses everything he owns. >> i don't know how anybody can
recover from something like this. my life went up in flames that night. >> after being so close to such a large explosion, cameraman jeff nichols feels lucky to make it home from work that day. >> i can't believe i'm alive. if i was a little bit closer, given different circumstances, i could have been seriously injured. >> coming up -- a house crumbles. firefighters get caught in a major blast. >> like being on a roller coaster, the rush of air that went past your ears. >> and a gas station blows up.
july 26th, 2009. a house in florence, kentucky, explodes. it's captured by a surveillance camera in a business across the street. the camera shows the house being blown to pieces, the roof collapses on to a heap of crushed walls and windows. fortunately, no one's home during the blast. officials believe the explosion is caused by a natural gas leak. november 4th, 2009. a surveillance camera silently captures an explosion at the silver eagle refinery in woods cross, utah. the enormous blast is the result of a fuel line leak at the petroleum processing facility. flames shoot more than 100 feet into the air.
the shock wave is felt for miles, including at the nearby fire station. >> my first impression was that one of the firefighters here had made driven one of the fire trucks into the building. it shook the building that hard. >> minutes later, the firefighters are at the scene of the blast. >> you could see flames. flames were visible into the refinery and heavy black smoke coming out of the refinery. >> workers at the refinery are able to shut off the hydrogen gas that's fueling the flames, and the fire is brought under control quickly. fortunately, there are no injuries. but the blast is so powerful that more than 100 nearby houses are damaged or destroyed. >> i was just shocked by the damage. the engineer condemned our house a couple hours after the explosion. >> linda wood lives a mile from the refinery.
the shock wave is so intense, it makes her home uninhabitable. it's not the first time the processing facility has exploded. >> this is the fifth time it's blown up in the six years i've been here. >> it takes five months for woods' home to be repaired, but she feels lucky that she wasn't there when it's blown apart. >> i think that i could have been seriously injured or killed, yes. i do. >> an investigation by the u.s. chemical safety board finds the explosion is the result of a burst pipe that sprays hydrogen gas on to a nearby heater. the refinery is shut down after the explosion, but reopens several months later. may 7, 2009. a gas leak has firefighters from prince georges county busy evacuating a strip mall in forestville, maryland.d a fire shows two firefighters walking in front of the building when suddenly, it explodes.
the powerful blast blows out several storefronts and causes the ceiling to collapse on to firefighters still inside. other rescue workers rush to aid those caught in the fireball. >> i know i had injured firefighters down on the ground that were clearly hurt, laying in front of me. >> battalion chief kenneth mcswain isn't sure how bad the injuries are, or if any in his company are missing. >> after the explosion, we were definitely unsure whether or not everyone was accounted for. that was probably the longest minute to two minutes of my career. >> commander grady velencez is one of those caught in the blast. he's blown to the ground when the gas ignites. >> it knocked me to the ground. it was almost like being on a roller coaster, the rush of air that went past your ears. >> prince georges county 911 center.
what is the location of the emergency? >> the incredible incident begins minutes before the explosion, when several 911 calls come in reporting a gas leak. >> what is your emergency? >> the emergency is gas leakage. >> the fire department gets everyone out of the shopping mall and locates the leak in the back of the building. it's a dangerous situation, and time is running out. seconds later, the gas finds an ignition source and the building explodes. >> the explosion was so intense that it blew debris past my buggy which is approximately 250 feet away from the building. >> the roof of the mall erupts into the sky. >> i was able to look dead on at this building, see the roof lift, look straight through the glass blowout, see the back of the building, see the wall drop. >> despite the chaos, battalion chief mcswain remains calm as he radios for help.
>> we have an explosion in the building. >> i got to stay calm, cool, level-headed, collected, because the moment that i escalate, the moment that i bring intensity out in my voice, then i'm going to have chaos on the fire ground. >> the enormous blast destroys the shopping mall. >> the aftermath would be what you would see in any type of a war zone after a bomb had gone off. the glass was blown out, the window frames, door frames had been thrown many, many yards away. the rear wall of the shopping center had been blown down. they had to tear down that shopping center and rebuild it. >> amazingly, the entire crew makes it out alive but several firefighters are hurt. >> injuries range from contusions to burns, bruises,
debris, you know, cuts and things, and you know, some of them still have challenges dealing with it mentally. >> but chief mcswain says the harrowing incident only brings those in this tight-knit force closer. >> it's a very, very, very close, you know, close brotherhood, sisterhood. >> two years after the incident, the shopping center is finally rebuilt. some of the businesses destroyed in the blast reopened, including lito's pizza, which relocates down the block. inside the pizzeria is a commemorative wall honoring the brave firefighters who risked their lives. coming up -- a tractor trailer jackknifes, then ignites. >> boom! it went up. >> and a gas station turns into an inferno.
may 15th, 2009. a tanker truck carrying more than 10,000 gallons of gasoline catches fire while making a delivery to a gas station in maddington, western australia, a small suburb of perth. firefighters do their best to control the fire, but both the truck and the service station are fully engulfed in flames. >> the flames got really big. the flames were about 50 feet in the air. >> simon simpson works in the area and records the incredible sight with his camera. >> firefighters were just trying to basically stop it from spreading. >> soon, a crowd gathers and several other people also start to record the growing fire. the flames get higher. the smoke, thicker.
>> the police and everyone started to get a little worried about the amount of people that were standing, just watching and filming. >> the chaotic scene spirals out of control. >> it's going. it's going! >> then the flames reach a massive amount of fuel and the gas station erupts. >> i've never seen anything that big. it was a bit of a shock and sort of stunned me for a second to see such a big fireball go straight up. >> before the blast, simpson is about 40 feet from the huge cloud of fire. it seemed like a safe distance. now, he's not so sure. >> when the explosion happened and i felt the heat and i decided to back away and put cars and a wall between me and the fire.
>> just hide behind. we'll be all right. >> firefighters are dangerously close to the explosion, but somehow, they survive. >> the firefighters that were literally ten feet away from the truck, the explosion was on the other side of the truck to where the firefighters were. >> the entire area becomes a massive inferno, spewing flames and black smoke. >> it just exploded. tell mom it just exploded. >> the mood changed massively after that. suddenly, everyone was a little bit worried and a lot of people moved away at that stage. >> officials evacuate a 1500 foot radius around the blaze and are on scene for 14 hours. damages from the explosion and fire are estimated by authorities to be $2 million, plus $1.5 million more in cleanup costs. >> the video doesn't really do it justice. actually watching it, and it was
just, yeah, once in a lifetime thing. i'm never going to see something like that again. >> dallas, texas. december 8th, 2005. an ice storm causes major headaches during the morning commute, as cars and trucks spin out on the slick roads. >> we get true ice storms. you may not have much snow. the snow is really just sheets of ice. and i do think that there's not enough drivers around here that see it frequently enough, they don't understand the concept that you have to slow down all the time. >> tv reporter mark johnson is in a helicopter covering accidents and traffic jams caused by the severe weather. he hovers over a jackknifed tractor trailer on i-20. while he's reporting, he sees something terrifying out of the corner of his eye. >> i'm able to peer over and get
sort of that bird's eye view so i'm not just watching what people on television are watching. i look over and i notice that there is an 18-wheeler coming eastbound faster than anybody has gone over it, and i know that this is not good. >> the camera captures a tractor trailer that loses control on the slippery highway. it crashes and bursts into flames. >> as it turns out, we caught the whole thing. after it hit the vehicle, all i could really see was flame. it was a decent sized explosion. boom! it went up. >> the flaming rig skids across the highway before coming to a stop. >> i'm watching this huge plume of flame and smoke and thinking oh, my god, there's no way somebody's going to live through that. >> back up. i think that truck's catching fire. >> in the back of my mind, i'm trying to figure out what's the best thing that we can do for the viewer to make them understand what we have just captured. >> it turns out johnson isn't the only tv person on scene.
>> it's a news unit that he hit. >> the tractor trailer slams into an suv from another tv station parked on the side of the highway. the cameraman had just left his vehicle and narrowly escapes getting hit by the truck and debris. >> that was mere seconds of walking away from a news vehicle, being in a location in which if he had decided to wait two, three more seconds, he may not be with us. >> the cameraman recovers from nearly being hit and starts recording the fiery truck from the ground. incredibly, seconds later, the driver of the smoking truck opens his door and climbs out. >> there was another miracle. so we are keyed in on the cab to see if there's any movement, if overjoyed. >> the driver also has a passenger who is nowhere to be found. a closer look at the video shows the man flying out of the crashing truck into the grass.
rescue workers find him still alive. >> i'm up in the helicopter. i have no idea that there's a passenger and he was blown out of the truck right away, as soon as it hit the guardrail. so it took awhile for us to sort of piece those things together. >> the destroyed semi stops burning briefly but the leaking fuel reignites the truck until firefighters bring it under control. no lives are lost. an unbelievable outcome considering the potential for disaster. >> fireballs light up the sky and can be exciting to watch on television or the internet, but they're best avoided in real life. i'm contessa brewer. that's all for this edition of "caught on camera."