HARMAR TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — An Illinois truck driver faces charges after his tractor-trailer loaded with advertising mail overturned on the eastbound Pennsylvania Turnpike and burst into flames two miles before the Allegheny Valley Exit.

Marek Kozera, 58, of Gurnee, Illinois told police he had picked up the mail in Illinois and was on his way to four postal locations in Maryland.

“He had driven about seven and a half hours, when he reported that he believed he fell asleep. His vehicle then drove off the right side of the road way on the shoulder, up onto the guide rail and at that point his vehicle overturned blocking all three lanes of the turnpike,” Cpl. Jason Terwilliger of the Pennsylvana State Police said.

The contents of the trailer immediately caught fire and were engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.  For hours they tried to get the fire out, but the densely packed junk mail resisted their efforts.

Throughout the morning rush hour the eastbound turnpike remained closed at Butler Valley.  That sent drivers on through a 15-mile single lane detour.

Kozera was not injured and remained on the scene throughout the morning.  Officials say the accident is under investigation and, at a minimum, Kozera faces a charge of careless driving.

While the roadway surface was not damaged, the accident did take out about 230 feet of guide rail which  had to be replaced.

“We try to recoup the cost from the negligent party once everything is all accessed,” Pennsylvania Turnpike Representative Rene Colburn said.

Two lanes of turnpike remained closed while the guide rail work was completed.  Just before the afternoon rush hour, 12 hours after the accident, all lanes reopened to traffic.

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