Driver taken to hospital for injuries

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

June 8, 2008 - Anyone looking at the skeletal remains of the gasoline truck which burned up west of Sulphur Springs Saturday morning could easily make the mistake of assuming the driver of the charred rig perished in the crash.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case this weekend. The driver was taken to the local hospital with what was reported to be only minor to moderate injuries.

The crash had traffic, especially early morning truck drivers carrying loads east, backed up for several miles Saturday. The roadway was expected to remain closed until at least noon, while Texas Department of Transportation crews worked to repair the holes and tears in the road caused by the truck explosion and fire.

The crash was first reported to county dispatchers at 4:27 a.m. Saturday as a truck explosion "somewhere" on Interstate 30. Emergency responders reported the glow could be seen as far east as State Highway 19 in Sulphur Springs, several miles from the site.

Cumby, Arbala, Brinker and North Hopkins Volunteer Fire Departments were dispatched. Hopkins County's hazardous materials team and several off-duty members of the fire department were called in early, along with Hopkins County Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Caudle. Hopkins County Sheriff's Office, Texas Department of Public Safety and Hopkins County Emergency Medical Services personnel were also dispatched to the location. Due to it's proximity to the city, Sulphur Springs police and firemen also responded to assist until the other agencies could arrive. The local branch of the Red Cross was called in later to provide refreshments for the emergency personnel, and Texas Department of Transportation was also contacted for assistance with traffic control and due to the road damage.

A UP Transportation truck driver traveling east on Interstate 30 just west of old U.S. Business 67 (FM 313) told emergency officials that two horses ran into the roadway around 4:30 Saturday morning. His rig, hauling unleaded gasoline, collided with the horses. The truck struck the concrete median at one point. The trailer rolled and continued into the ditch between the south service road and Interstate just across from County Road 1111, between U.S. 67 and FM 3389. The trailer with 8500 pounds of unleaded gasoline ignited. The truck was completely engulfed when county firefighters arrived, with the flames stretching across both lanes of I-30 east, beyond the concrete barrier to blow across the grassy median behind it toward the westbound lane.

Firefighters staged their tankers with hoses ready along the eastbound lane of I-30 near the truck as a precaution, but only washed off the interstate and wet down the area around it to contain the blaze.

"We let the product burn," Caudle, also the county's fire investigator, explained. "If we were to try to extinguish it we would have had a worse problem than we've got because of run off."

The entire eastbound lane of I-30 was shut down for more than a mile leading up to the wreck, and a portion of westbound I-30 as well for about 2 hours. Westbound I-30 was completely reopened at before 7 p.m., and eastbound traffic routed to the south service road. The miles-long stretch of 18-wheelers two-lanes thick in most places continued to await the reopening of the roadway, as they were locked in with no way off the highway. Sheriff's deputies continued to monitor exits near the scene while roadways were closed, redirecting traffic away from the scene.

The driver was in the truck when EMS arrived. He was assisted out, and taken to the hospital. At 6:30 p.m. the truck driver reportedly was reported to be doing OK, suffering only what is suspected to be broken ribs and some burning on his back, he told Caudle in a telephone conversation from the hospital. Both horses were killed.

After the fire burned out, TxDOT workers began filling in large pot holes and smaller indentations made on the road surface. Once repaired, that section of I-30 was expected to be reopened, possibly around lunch time Saturday.

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