By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — An overturned fuel hauler caused major headaches last weekend, forcing residents to evacuate their houses and closing portions of Telegraph for more than 24 hours.
About 9 p.m., a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser traveling in the leftmost, northbound lane on Telegraph hit a patch of ice stemming from a water main break, police said. Approaching Wilson, the car spun sideways into the next lane where the tanker was traveling, causing the truck driver to slam on the breaks.
But with the icy conditions, the truck careened out of control – first jackknifing, then overturning – until it came to rest on the intersection’s north median.
Dearborn firefighters rescued the driver of the tanker as hundreds of gallons of gasoline poured onto the roadway. He was transported to an area hospital, where he was treated for minor back pain. The driver of the PT Cruiser was uninjured and was cited for failure to use due care.
About 2,500 gallons of gasoline were spilled from the 12,500-gallon tanker and a heavy odor of gasoline permeated the nearby area. Police were forced to evacuate people from four or five surrounding blocks, as the Fire Department and other emergency respondents worked to suppress the fumes and possibility of explosion.
“It’s very heavy,” said Brian Gorman about the fumes.
“First I smelled the gas, then I saw the lights and heard the sirens,” he said. “I had to come check it out, but it’s kind of scary. I sure hope they get this under control,” he said as he stood watching firefighters spray vapor-suppressing foam on the truck.
And about 12 hours later, they did. Once firefighters had the fumes under control and the remaining gasoline trucked away, southbound Telegraph was reopened. Contractors then began sucking the nearly $10,000 worth of fuel out of nearby sewers. Northbound Telegraph was reopened the next day after cleanup was completed. No gas is believed to have made it into the Rouge River.
In all, more than 13 different private and public entities responded to the accident, including agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.
“Our taxpayers invest in Dearborn. Incidents like this demonstrate the return we get on that investment,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said.
“The city works hard to recruit and retain top-notch personel … to provide excellent equipment training … and to create partnerships with other public safety agencies. It all came together on this one. We had a fast multifaceted response that was ready to deal with any possible contingency.”
In addition to the emergency respondents, the Salvation Army provided food for emergency workers, while State Farm agent Bob Zakar opened up his nearby office for all-night use by public safety workers.
Still unclear is how long the water main had been broken and what agency was in charge of upkeep. City officials believed the water main was the Detroit Water and Sewer Department’s responsibility, and were unsure how long the main had been broken.
George Allenwood, a spokesman for DWSD, had a different account. He said that the morning after the spill, DWSD and Dearborn Department of Public Works officials determined that the main was Dearborn’s, not Detroit’s.
Dearborn officials did not return requests for comment prior to the Times-Herald’s deadline Friday.