I-95 tanker crash snarls traffic most of the day Driver calls lack of injury a 'miracle'

August 03, 1991|By Roger Twigg and David Michael Ettlin

A three-lane, tractor-trailer version of bump and run left a tanker and its 4,000-gallon load of hazardous chemicals draped over a concrete jersey barrier yesterday, snarling traffic along a steamy six-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in South Baltimore most of the day.

Southbound traffic was funneled into a single lane -- and even shut down at times -- as city fire officials watched over the transfer of the load of ferric chloride to another tanker, and cleaned up spilled fuel after the third serious tanker truck crash in the area in less than a week.

The tanker rig's owner-driver, Clarence N. Washington Jr., 38, of Riverdale, who stayed with his truck all day, said he felt a little stiff, very sunburned, and lucky to have escaped injury from what he termed a "scary" collision about 8 a.m.

Mr. Washington said that he was heading south in the middle lane when a tractor-trailer turned away from the Caton Avenue exit lane and knocked another rig against the side of the tanker he was taking to Washington's Blue Plains sewage-treatment plant. Ferric chloride is used in processing sewage waste.

No charge was lodged against Mr. Washington, who said that the other truckers "saw what was happening" and kept on going.

"I never did get nervous. It was just scary when it was happening,"

said Mr. Washington, noting that he formerly drove race cars. He also said that it was a miracle no car was on the left side of his rig, in the fast lane, when the impact occurred.

The trucker said that his rig, worth about $30,000, was totaled as it plowed over a line of concrete barriers anchored by bolts an inch and a half thick, which appeared to have limited the damage and injury. "I was about 2 1/2 feet from going over a hole that would have turned the whole rig over," he said. "It [the truck] climbed the wall and stayed on it. It never flipped."

On Wednesday afternoon, a gasoline tanker overturned in Glen Burnie on the Route 10 approach to the Baltimore Beltway, exploding into flames and killing the driver. Excessive speed may have caused the crash, police said.

Saturday night, another gasoline tanker overturned near the FTC intersection of Curtis and Pennington Avenues in South Baltimore, injuring the driver and dumping much of its cargo into the street.

The biggest leak at yesterday's crash scene occurred after the dangerous cargo had been removed and Mr. Washington's rig was being lifted off the wall. A fuel line was ruptured, spilling diesel fuel across the highway and forcing a brief shutdown of all three lanes about 3 p.m. -- moments before a normal traffic flow was to resume.

For most of the day, lines of traffic backed up along I-95 nearly to the Fort McHenry Tunnel, and along I-395 to its downtown entrance. All lanes were open by the afternoon rush hour and the traffic flow slowly returned to normal, police said.

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