Crews Rush to Clean Up Jet Fuel Following Deadly Tanker Crash near Dutch Flat

DUTCH FLAT -- One person was killed Monday morning after a tanker truck went off the road and rolled down a hill along eastbound Interstate 80 near Dutch Flat, according to the CHP.

The accident happened shortly before 6 a.m.

The stretch of I-80 had the look of a construction site. There were two fire hazmat units on hand because the tanker truck that drove off the roadway was carrying 7,000 to 8,000 gallons of jet fuel that began to leak -- but just how much was uncertain.

When the tanker truck missed a turn, it jumped some rocks then plowed 200 feet down an embankment, where it stopped, upside-down.

Access to the scene was a problem from the start. Safety ropes were used by first responders to reach the tanker and the driver, who was later found dead.

"We used initially a Cal Fire hand crew out of Washington Ridge Camp to be able to build access for our people to be able hike down in there and do some of those initial stop and release procedures," said Joe Ten Eyck with Cal Fire Placer County.

While the leaks were stopped, fire officials didn’t know how stressed the fuel containers were.

Two Cal Fire bulldozers were used to build a road to the wreck so another tanker could be used to offload the remaining fuel.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife was on scene with a scientist to look for jet fuel in Canyon Creek just below where the tanker came to rest. The creek contains lots of wildlife and the water runs downstream into Colfax.

"We actually created a containment dam or barrier that will put a boom in and that will, hopefully, catch some of that fuel before it gets into Canyon Creek," said Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Eric Laughlin.

There is still the matter of the contaminated soil, which may have to be excavated. The big concern is the rain that is forecast to hit the area.

I-80 is no stranger to big rig wrecks.

"A lot of big rigs do run off the road up here," said CHP Officer Tim Brown. "A lot of it is a result of falling asleep at the wheel and we are not sure at this time if that is the cause of this collision right now."

However, there were no skid marks on the roadway in front of the spot where the tanker barreled through the forest.

The CHP said the driver got on duty just an hour and a half before the crash. He was traveling from the Sacramento area to Reno. It doesn’t seem like driver fatigue was a factor but an autopsy and toxicology tests are routine in cases like this.

The hope is to recover the remaining jet fuel and do more work with plastic sheeting before the rains come and wash what fuel is in the ground into the creek.
Officials say it’s likely the area will be monitored for the next few weeks and even months.

Lanes along I-80 remained open but drivers should be cautious of emergency vehicles on the shoulder.

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