March 2007 - News Story:

Overturned propane truck
creates “hazmat” crisis

By Laura Link

It could have been so much worse. This AmeriGas propane delivery tanker truck reportedly suffered brake failure on one of Big Canoe's steep curves and tipped over, almost sliding off the road and down the hillside. All's well that ends well, but that didn't happen without several hours of tense recovery work to upright the truck. POA leaders praised the work of local emergency responders for the professional manner in which a potentially hazardous incident was handled.

A propane truck lost brakes Monday morning, Feb. 19, on a treacherous section of road and overturned in the driveway at 2119 McElroy Mountain Drive.

This is the third serious truck accident at this location, one of which resulted in the fatality of a worker whose truck brakes failed as well.   

The driver of the Amerigas truck said he crested a hill and felt the brakes go out. He traveled about 600 yards during which time he tried to put the truck in a ditch while pulling on the emergency brake. The truck broke through the wooden guardrail and overturned in the driveway of David and Carol Dye’s home.

According to James Watson, Amerigas manager in Canton, there was no product released except for a small leak on the rear of the truck. The driver who is also a fire fighter from Woodstock and has received hazardous material training quickly shut this off. He received minor injuries to his head and leg, was treated and released from the hospital.

Responding to the potentially catastrophic 911 call were fire engines from Stations 3 in the village and 6 of Dawson County. In addition, Bill Bates, public safety director of Big Canoe, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Dept., three Big Canoe patrol units, the Dawson County assistant fire chief Jeff Cantrell and fire marshal Tim Satterfield were present.

Cantrell said normally in an accident like this the propane would be unloaded and then the truck up-righted but the location of the valve on this new International truck prohibited this execution.

The real hero according to Cantrell was the wrecker driver. The front end and wheels of the propane truck were hanging over a steep incline when it came to rest. The truck contained approximately 1,600 gallons of propane. Had the wrecker driver not been able to maneuver the overturned truck to hold it on the mountain with the huge wrecker, it could have plunged down the mountain and a major catastrophe in Big Canoe would have occurred.

“In my 19 years I have never seen a wrecker driver upright a truck like this and set it down so gently it didn’t even rock back and forth,” Cantrell said.

Two houses were evacuated when the accident occurred. The area was blocked to traffic for nearly seven hours according to Bates while the truck was up-righted and pumped off.

Watson said Amerigas would file an accident report, carry out an intensive investigation and file a drug test on the driver as required by the Dept. of Transportation. In addition, he said the new truck would be returned to International for their inspection and evaluation.

Three days after the accident Stan Stewart, Bill Womac, Bill Bates and residents of the property affected met at the site with Don Watson, retired DOT engineer to assess the road problem.

Watson, who has been retained by Big Canoe to study roads in the community, will look at the possibility of “cleaning up that 90 degree curve a little” and other measures according to Bates. Signage will be added up and down the hill Bates added.

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