Semitrailer veers off I-15 into river; 2 hurt


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BOX ELDER COUNTY -- Two people were hurt Friday morning when a loaded semitrailer crashed into a guardrail on Interstate 15 and plunged into a river near Honeyville in Box Elder County.

According to the Utah Highway Patrol, the semitrailer hauling boxes of store-brand cleaning products and soap was southbound around 6 a.m. when it veered off a bridge and into Bear River.

"They were going fast enough that they obviously broke through the guardrail and went for quite a long distance and still went airborne into the river," said Sgt. Brian Nelson with UHP.

Two injured in accident

Troopers say two people were inside the cab when it went into the water. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck.

The crash smashed up the front end of the semitrailer. Troopers say the driver most likely fell asleep at the wheel.

Rescue crews had to pull the driver and passenger from the cab. The driver was flown to the hospital in critical condition, while the passenger was taken by ambulance.

The crash forced the closure of the southbound lanes on I-15 near Honeyville. As of 11 a.m., Troopers said some of those lanes were back open.

Cleaning products dumped into river at crash site

Hundreds of bottles of cleaning products were pushed out of the trailer and into the river, but according to cleanup crews, it's a mess that is manageable.

Had the truck crashed another 50 feet south of where it did, it could have gone right off the side of the bridge and been a total disaster.

Only about four pallets of cleaning product made it into the water. Of that, only about 10 percent of the cleaning solution leaked from its containers.
Only about four pallets of cleaning product made it into the water. Of that, only about 10 percent of the cleaning solution leaked from its containers.

The fire department, hazmat teams and health department officials set up a containment area to catch all the cleaning chemicals and soap.

"It's just such a big mess," said Rusty Grover, general manager of Lincoln Environmental Services. Grover and his crew have been picking up the bottles for hours -- some by hand, others with shovels.

"They're just picking up a lot of the lose articles that hit the water and split apart out of the boxes, because the water just ate the cardboard."

The Bear River Health Department estimates four pallets of cleaning product -- including Western Family brand bleach, glass cleaner, laundry softener and hand soap -- fell into the river. Of that, only about 10 percent of the cleaning solution leaked from its containers.

Grover says because it was such a small amount and the products have no harsh chemicals, the river should be fine and there is no immediate threat to the river or residents nearby.

"It looks huge, but the chemicals aren't that dangerous," he said. "It's mostly just the surfactant, but it just dissipates in the water."

Crews have set up three booms to catch the bottles of product and the chemicals. The booms are also collecting diesel fuel that leaked from the semitrailer. Officials estimate anywhere from 140 to 150 gallons of fuel leaked, but say most of it ended up on the bank of the river.

"There was the diesel fuel that was up inside the truck," Grover said. "It did lose all of that, but it is up in the hillside. Very minimal amounts got in the river."

Final cleanup to happen next week

Crews have removed most of the product that spilled where the crash occurred. The little that is left will be cleaned up Tuesday, when the contaminated dirt will be removed by track hoes. Cleanup crews say they have to wait to do that because there is a major gas line in the area and it needs to be properly marked.

"A lot of hand digging to get around it, because it's a high-pressure line," Grover said. "You can't come near it, you have to stay about three feet, so it will be hand digging."

Once that's done, it should take about a day to complete the project.

The only thing left to do Friday is walking the bank of the river, picking up any bottles that went downstream.

Once all of the cleaning product is removed from the riverbank, the focus will be on removing the contaminated dirt from hillside. Grover estimates that will be about 50 to 60 tons of dirt.

Once the hillside has been re-filled with dirt, Lincoln Environmental will then test the soil to make sure it's safe. They'll do the same thing along the bank of the river down to where the booms are set up.

As long as those tests come back free of cleaning solution or fuel, the site will then be turned back over to the Bear River Health Department for final inspection.

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Story compiled with contributions from Anne Forester and Shara Park.

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