Truck wreck sends diesel into Williams River Route 103 expected to be closed til 11 p.m. Tuesday

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Firefighters go into the Williams to begin containing the flow of diesel from the wreck. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

A Ryder tractor unit hit a guardrail on 103 North in Chester Tuesday evening, narrowly avoiding a roll into the Williams River. But damage to the truck sent gallons and gallons of diesel fuel into the water.

At around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, while the Chester Fire Department was cutting up old cars at Benny’s Towing to practice extricating passengers from wrecks, a call came in for a tractor-trailer “into the guardrail with no injuries” on Rt. 103 near Palmer Road.

The scene from the Palmer Rd. bridge.

According to Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson, he drove his personal vehicle to the scene expecting to find a minor crash needing traffic control. What he found was a semi-cab nearly in the river with its saddle fuel tanks ruptured and leaking. The tanks are hitched together, according to Wilson, so the fuel can move from the undamaged side to the side with the  hole and out into the river. Typically the two tanks combined carry around 300 gallons of fuel.

“I could smell the fuel as soon as I got out of the truck,” said Wilson. He added that he then called for an fire engine and the haz-mat trailer.

Chester firefighters tie off sets of absorbent booms to keep the fuel from running downstream

Firefighters went into the river to set up booms to contain the fuel by absorbing it. Several of the  firefighters’ turnout gear wreaked of diesel and will need to be treated before being used again. One set of gear was so soaked with fuel, it may need to be scrapped. A full set of turnout gear costs about $3,000.

“They’ll pay for replacing it,” said Wilson nodding toward the stricken truck. “But it’s money we’ll have to lay out first.”

As firefighters checked the river for signs of fuel, they continued to set up booms downstream drawing on the department’s new haz-mat trailer for supplies.

Bags filled with absorbing material are pulled from the river stinking of diesel.

In the past, all of the environmental clean up supplies were stored on shelves at the Fire Station, explained Wilson. “But after the gas truck wreck down on 11, we started working on getting this trailer.” So rather  than sending a truck back and forth to the station to get supplies, everything needed was on scene.

According to DMV Inspector Mark Heberts, the driver of the truck was a Ryder employee who moves trucks around from facility to facility. He was in the process of bringing a truck from White River Junction to Springfield when he took a wrong turn and got lost.

The crash closed Rt. 103 causing long traffic backups.

The driver was shaken up, but not injured, according to Wilson.

Hillside Towing arrived at around 8:45 p.m. to pump out the remaining fuel and extricate the cab. Wilson estimated that the road would be closed for another couple of hours and requested that Proctorsville Fire cover any Chester calls north of the scene and that a cover truck from another department be sent to the Chester station.

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