Off-duty police officer witnesses tanker explosion

(Matthew Bowman)

DUBLIN, OH (WCMH) – An off-duty Sunbury police officer is being thanked tonight for being selfless in the face of a dangerous tanker explosion.

Officer Matthew Bowman risked his own life to make sure nobody else drove under the fire and subsequent explosions.

“If I just would have been 30 seconds, maybe 10 seconds sooner, I would have been right under that bridge,” said Ofc. Bowman. “Because it happened right before, I was safe and I was able to keep other people safe.”

He said he watched a tanker explode on top of an overpass that was carrying 8,000 gallons of fuel. He was just about to drive right under the massive inferno.

“It all happened really fast,” said Ofc. Bowman. “Started backing people up just as far as I could, far as I could. The farther away, the better. That way I knew that they were safe.”

He parked his car and while directing people to safety, recorded a video on his phone. Ofc. Bowman has been a police officer for 5 years and before that, he was a firefighter for 3 years.

“The heat that it was putting off… you couldn’t get much closer than where I was,” he said. “I knew that the overpasses had drainage systems and I was afraid the fuel was going to dump onto the bottom, that was my concern for the people that were passing me.”

Luckily, he said a few vehicles had already stopped.

“But, there were other vehicles that were wanting to go around them to continue on that I wasn’t going to let happen,” said Ofc. Bowman.

Following his directions, cars started going in reverse as subsequent explosions could be heard in the background.

The Facebook page “Ohio Going Blue” said he “selflessly put himself between danger and the public” and “likely saved lives.”

“I think that it’s just normal, everyday stuff for me, being a police officer off-duty is no different than on-duty,” said Ofc. Bowman. “The main concern was their safety and I thought if I could keep them safe, then I was doing my job.”

He said no one got past him after he started directing traffic, but some cars were still headed toward the blaze. Ofc. Bowman said if you ever see an explosion like that stop and don’t go near it. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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