It was later determined that the right wheels of the tanker left the roadway. Without sufficiently slowing the vehicle, the driver steered the truck back onto the pavement. This caused the rear end of the tanker to come around and the apparatus began to slide. The tanker exited the left side of the road, rolled, and collided with a natural gas distribution substation.
A second tanker - that was following the one that crashed - alerted other firefighters to the crash. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found the tanker entangled in the natural gas substation with large amounts of natural gas being released. A hazardous materials response team from a nearby city was called to the scene. Once the team arrived, the two firefighters were removed from the tanker and transported to the hospital. The driver was pronounced dead at the hospital, the firefighter who had been a passenger in the tanker received serious but non-fire threatening injuries. Neither firefighter was wearing a seat belt.
The cause of death for driver was listed as multiple blunt force injuries to the head, chest, and abdomen. The law enforcement report on this incident cited excessive speed as a contributing circumstance to the crash.
Lesson to be Learned: This incident was a classic example of the need to keep all of the vehicle's wheels on the road surface at all times. If for some reason the right-side wheels drop off the road surface, the apparatus should be slowed to a speed of 20 mph before attempting to bring all the wheels back onto the road. Neither of the occupants of the tanker was wearing seatbelts, which contributed to the seriousness of their injuries.
Case Study #2 - Failure to Follow Posted Speed Suggestions on a Curve
This incident occurred in Washington state at 21:36 hours on April 8, 1996. The 19-year-old male firefighter who was fatally injured was the driver of a 3,000-gallon tanker responding to a structure fire. The right front seat was occupied by another firefighter. Neither firefighter was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
A local bridge was out of service for repair so the response route taken to the fire was unfamiliar to both firefighters. The fire chief, who was following the tanker in his vehicle, was more familiar with the route. As the tanker approached a curve, the fire chief realized that the driver was accelerating and ordered the tanker, by radio, to slow down. The order came too late and the tanker entered the curve at a speed estimated to be 40-60 miles per hour. The recommended speed in the curve is 35 miles per hour.
The tanker skidded, rotated counter clockwise, and then left the right side of the roadway. The tanker rolled first onto its right side, then onto its roof. The cab was crushed as it slid for a distance. The tanker rolled again and came to rest on its left side.
The fire chief and another chief officer who was riding with him immediately requested assistance. They found the passenger attempting to self-extricate and helped him out of the vehicle. They had a great deal of difficulty removing the driver due to his position in the cab of the truck. He was eventually removed with the assistance of a passing motorist. CPR was begun immediately and continued while the driver was transported to the hospital. The driver was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital. The cause of death for the driver was listed as a lacerated heart and major vessels.
Lesson to be Learned: Driving the tanker at a safe and reasonable speed is always important. However, it becomes even more critical when operating the vehicle on unfamiliar roads. In this incident the driver was not familiar with the route being traveled and entered a curve at a speed in which the tanker could not safely be operated. This resulted in a rollover crash. Once again, failure to wear safety belts likely contributed to the seriousness of the injuries.
Case Study #3 - Excessive Speed
This crash occurred in West Virginia during daylight hours on November 19, 2001. A 32 year-old former chief officer was driving the tanker and a 21 year-old firefighter was riding as a passenger in the front right seat of the cab. The 2,000 gallon tanker was following a pumper that left the same fire station and was en route to provide mutual aid at a brush fire.