Authorities search for driver in accident
Authorities responded to a hit-and-run hazmat accident on Interstate 80 Tuesday afternoon, after two big rigs collided and the driver of one allegedly emptied a diesel fuel tank onto the roadway and fled the scene.
Authorities are still looking for the truck driver who emptied the fuel onto the roadway and quickly left the scene of the accident, leaving only a business card with the company’s name on it with the other driver involved in the wreck, said Ron Wulff, a California Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer.
The steel cargo container of one truck came loose and unattached from the trailer when the driver, who remains unidentified, attempted to pass the other truck, who was driven by Dwight Musgrave of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The cargo container landed on its side in the left lane, “slid onto the shoulder, demolished the steel guardrail and came to rest over the side of the embankment,” according to the CHP collision report.
Both drivers veered into the right-hand lane in an attempt to avoid the container, and the right-front fender of and tire of Musgrave’s tractor struck the left-rear of the other driver’s trailer. Musgrave’s tractor and trailer were smashed against the concrete center-divider wall. They both pulled over to the shoulder and stopped.
“The fuel tank came off of the cargo container when it broke free of the trailer and slid down the (slow) lane,” said Wulff. That is when the other driver opened the fuel tank and dumped his diesel fuel onto the highway. He dragged the empty tank to the right shoulder.
“He probably wanted to get the tank light enough to drag it off the roadway,” said Wulff. “However, with the (weather) conditions we had (Tuesday), that was the wrong thing to do.” He said the weather conditions that afternoon were extremely wet and slushy, making it very difficult to clean up a hazmat spill.
“Diesel fuel becomes a hazmat spill when it reaches a certain quantity. These diesel trucks hold quite a bit, sometimes around 50 gallons,” explained Wulff. Because of the spill and the wrecked cargo container, only the right lane of eastbound I-80 was open for much of the afternoon.
The other driver left a business card with Musgrave, told him he’d talk to him in Boomtown, and fled in his vehicle eastbound, according to the CHP report.
He did not provide any personal or vehicle information before he left the scene.
CHP and the Nevada Highway Patrol searched Boomtown and all of the truck stops in Reno and Sparks Tuesday afternoon and evening. As of Wednesday, they had not yet located the driver. When authorities called the name of the business on the card given to Musgrave, it appeared he had failed to notify his employer as well.
“The driver is clearly in violation of hit and run,” the report said.
It was just one of many accidents to which the CHP had to respond recently.
The CHP saw a huge increase in vehicular accidents due to the serious winter weather conditions last week, Wulff said.
“There’s always a lot of accidents when there are stormy conditions,” he said. “During a real storm, like the one we had last week, we end up going from one vehicle to another … cars that have rolled over, slid off the road, trucks overturned.”
According to Wulff, many of the accidents during these storms are caused by drivers who are unfamiliar with driving in adverse conditions. Also, many people who drive four-wheel drive vehicles believe they can go the regular speed limit in icy and snowy conditions, which is dangerous, he said.
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