Westminster woman hospitalized after crash Tractor-trailer rams Jeep, spilling fuel from both vehicles

June 26, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Westminster woman was injured yesterday when a tractor-trailer rammed the rear of her Jeep Grand Cherokee, rupturing fuel tanks on both vehicles and spilling scores of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel onto a grassy area leading to Longwell Stream, authorities said.

Teresa Ann Bonneyville, 41, of the 1000 block of Long Valley Road was flown by MedEvac helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was in fair and stable condition last night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Firefighters spread foam and a chemical absorbent over the fuel spill to prevent an explosion, said Michael Rehfeld, assistant chief of the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1.

Barriers were placed in the stream to keep the spilled fuel from contaminating the water, he said.

With air temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, the road surface was much hotter, close to 145 degrees, the critical flash point at which a mixture of gasoline and diesel fuel could ignite, Rehfeld said.

Authorities were not certain how much of the mixed fuels had spilled. The Jeep's tank could hold 30 gallons of gasoline and the tractor-trailer tank that ruptured could hold 150 gallons of diesel fuel, they said.

"I don't believe much, if any [of the fuel], got into the stream," Rehfeld said.

According to state police investigators, the tractor-trailer was following the Jeep south on Route 27 north of the entrance to Cranberry Mall when the Jeep entered the Goldenrod Road left-turn lane at 12: 09 p.m.

Skid marks on the road showed that the truck's brakes locked as it veered into the left- turn lane before swerving to the right at impact, police said.

The impact spun the Jeep 180 degrees and onto a grassy area off the west shoulder of the road. The windshield of the Jeep was cracked from top to bottom. It was not clear whether Bonneyville was wearing a seat belt.

The truck driver, Ford A. Towell, 29, of Baltimore told troopers he tried to swerve to avoid a collision.

"Mr. Towell said he was watching another vehicle that was trying to pass him on the right and, when he looked ahead again, the Jeep was stopped in front of him," said Tfc. David Brauning of the Westminster barracks.

Brauning said a witness noticed a third vehicle sitting broadside in the road as she ran to see if anyone was injured, but that vehicle was driven away before troopers arrived.

The trooper said it was unclear why the tractor-trailer, which is owned by Santamar Corp., had followed the Jeep into the turning lane.

Towell was cited for negligent driving and for driving a commercial vehicle with a license that had been suspended in New York, Brauning said.

Volunteers from Reese assisted Westminster firefighters. State roads crews and the state Department of the Environment were called to clean up the spill.

Route 27 was closed and state police rerouted traffic for more than three hours, Brauning said.

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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