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All lanes reopened following tanker crash cleanup

Posted - Mar. 17, 2010 at 5:04 p.m.


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ROY -- A semi truck driver lost control early Wednesday morning causing two trailers to roll and spill thousands of gallons of diesel fuel on Interstate 15 in Weber County.

The accident caused major delays during the morning commute. Utah Department of Transportation crews have just reopened all the northbound lanes, but they say the earlier closure is causing backup for the evening commute as well.

The crash happened shortly after 4 a.m. Wednesday, near 5600 South in Roy. Troopers say the driver had just filled up two trailers with diesel fuel at a refinery in Woods Cross and was on his way to unload in Ogden when he veered into the jersey barrier near.

That impact caused his two trailers to roll, then slide about 150 feet. One trailer finally came to a stop on top of the barrier, the other about 20 feet away.

Troopers said there was a small fire, but the Roy Fire Department responded quickly and got it under control.

The driver of the semi truck, 55-year-old Shane Oliver, originally told police he had fallen asleep, but now authorities believe he may have been under the influence of drugs.

"The paramedics on scene did notice some information with his eyes that led them to believe he might be under the influence of some type of substance," said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jimmy Higgs. "We asked the driver about that. He mentioned that he does have a prescription for Lortab and had taken Lortab yesterday. Also, inside the truck, we found a methamphetamine pipe."

The Golden Eagle Oil truck involved is company-issued, so police are not completely sure that that meth pipe belonged to Oliver. Investigators are testing his blood to see if he was in fact under the influence of drugs.

Regardless of the cause, the result of that spill was a major disaster, not only for cleanup crews but for commuters in Weber County.

The crashed caused about 5,000 gallons of fuel to spill along I-15, which resulted in troopers shutting down the freeway in both directions. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck.

EnviroCare hazmat teams then spent the next seven-plus hours using vacuum trucks to suck out the remaining diesel fuel in the two tanks in order to move them and clean up the road.

"This is a pretty good size cleanup," said John Hart, COO of EnviroCare. "We would consider this a major event."

"We've been putting a lot of absorbent down to recover the diesel off the asphalt," said EnviroCare safety officer Michael Dunham. "We've been laying down a lot of dirt and taking a front loader to load up all the contaminated dirt and absorbent, and put it in trucks and get the freeway open."

For hours, both north and southbound lanes of traffic were diverted off the freeway, causing miles of traffic to back up.

Just as troopers began talking about opening the freeway, Utah Department of Transportation engineers found that the diesel fuel did erode the asphalt in the northbound lanes. That meant the road needed to be milled down and repaved before it was safe to drive on.

The UHP says will recommend the Weber County Attorney's Office charge Oliver with DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia and lane travel violation.

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Story compiled with contributions from Jennifer Stagg, Shara Park and Randall Jeppesen.

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