Tanker accident in Wagner's Point spills gasoline on street and into sewer drain

Two roads closed, leaving residents, workers cut off

November 16, 1999|By Kurt Streeter | Kurt Streeter,SUN STAFF

A gasoline tanker rig flipped over as it made a sharp turn in the Wagner's Point industrial area early yesterday, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel onto the street and into a sewer drain that empties into Curtis Bay.

The spill did not trigger evacuations, but two major roads feeding the area were closed for much of the day, keeping hundreds of areaworkers from reaching or leaving their jobs and cutting off Wagner's Point residents.

The accident occurred when the 40-foot-long gasoline rig driven by Frank Daniel Dixon III took a hard turn from Fairfield Road onto Patapsco Avenue at 1: 45 a.m. The rig went out of control, slammed into a curb and rolled, stopping upside down against a utility pole, said Sgt. Scott Rowe, city police spokesman.

Dixon might have been driving too fast, said Rowe, who added the 45-year-old Hanover resident had just loaded his rig with 8,200 gallons of gasoline at the Citgo refinery.

The crash ripped open the tanker's fuel drums, allowing about 4,000 gallons of gasoline to flow. Most of the fuel went onto the street and into a sewer drain on Patapsco, said Fire Battalion Chief Kenneth Haag.

Fire crews arrived shortly afterward and began cleaning up and containing the spill, using water and foam to reduce the risk of igniting vapors. The crews used hoses to remove remaining fuel from the tanker.

Haag said the cold and windy conditions worked in the Fire Department's favor, cutting the risk of sparking a fire. "If this was a hot, still summer day, we could have had some real trouble," he said.

Crews had emptied the tanker and turned it upright about noon.

Crews from the Fire Department, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Coast Guard worked to contain the spill inside the Stonehouse Cove inlet that feeds into Curtis Bay. They set up a buoy to control the fuel.

"So far, it looks like the environmental damage has been minimal. All we've seen is a bunch of dead minnows" in the cove, said Susan Woods, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

As the more than 10-hour cleanup was under way, hundreds of workers, business owners and Wagner's Point residents gathered at police check points on the 1500 block of Patapsco Ave. and the 3500 block of Fairfield Road.

Wagner's Point residences are almost vacant now, but about 30 people remain. The city is turning the neighborhood into more industrial space. The neighborhood was cut off because the intersection where the accident occurred is the only access.

The intersection was opened about 3 p.m.

"They really need to have some sort of stop sign there or some kind of light signal to slow people," said John Rivera, 24, who drives for SDJ Trading, which has offices on the 2100 block of Asphalt St.

"It's well known that it can be a tough turn onto Patapsco, especially if it's dark or if you are new down here," said Rivera. "If drivers don't slow down they can end up in trouble, just like what happened here."

An accident at the same intersection on Aug. 20, 1998, killed a passenger of a car hit by a tanker similar to the one Dixon was driving.

Dixon was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center where he was treated for minor injuries and released.

"The guy must have had a couple of lucky horseshoes and he used them all up in this one," said Haag. He said the cab Dixon was driving was crushed in the accident. "I can hardly imagine how that guy survived."

Police said they suspect driver error caused the accident.

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