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Stranded drivers endure five-hour delay on Interstate 80

BETTENDORF -

A truck fire sent smoke high into the sky and stranded drivers for five hours on Thursday, May 4.

"It probably took an hour to get the smoke down," said stranded driver Rick Keemle, Rock Island.

It happened on westbound Interstate 80 in Bettendorf, near mile marker 304.

Nobody was hurt, but the incident closed westbound lanes from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

A load of smoldering paper plates kept traffic at a standstill for hours.

"The flames were huge," recalled another stranded driver, Mark Cranford, Peoria. "They were taller than the trees."

Cranford and his wife, Connie, were delayed getting to their daughter's college graduation in Nebraska.

"Another minute and a half, we would have passed through here," he said.

While eastbound lanes reopened at 10:25 a.m., westbound lanes were closed well into the afternoon.

Drivers were late for work, deliveries and even baseball games.

"When we were coming across the bridge, we thought it was a brush fire," Keemle continued.  "Then the blacker it got, you knew it was something."

Stranded drivers could really just watch, wait and get to know each other along the highway.

The Cranfords were glad to depart for the graduation this afternoon.

"Don't want to miss it," he said, while waiting it out for officials to give the go-ahead to drive away.

They're finally on the road to Lincoln, Nebraska. As they put it, it's certainly turning out to be an eventful start to their daughter's graduation weekend.

"Still got plenty of time," Mark concluded.  "But we're getting out of here later than expected."