Tanker Truck Explodes, Highway 6 Shut Down
August 10th, 2005 @ 6:46pm
A semi truck carrying nearly 20 tons of explosives crashed and exploded in Spanish Fork Canyon this afternoon. The blast left a huge crater in the road and tore up the railroad tracks that run alongside.
There are at least five injured and the road is closed. And that means long detours for many motorists tonight, trying to find other ways around Spanish Fork Canyon.
The semi apparently loaded up explosives this morning in Spanish Fork and was heading east, out of the state. They were on Highway 6, about 10 miles up from Thistle Junction when something happened, causing the semi to crash and turn over.
Witnesses say other drivers stopped and pulled the driver of the semi outside of his cab just before it exploded. Debris went in all directions, sparking fires on both sides of the canyon. The blast left a huge crater in the road – 30 feet deep and at least 60 feet wide. The blast also caused damage to railroad tracks that run parallel to the highway.
The cars that had pulled over near the accident were also damaged in the blast. It broke the windows of those cars. Several people were transported to the hospital by ground and by helicopter.
The driver of the truck, a man in his early 30's, was flown to the University of Utah medical center. He was conscious and talking when he arrived at the ER. Three other people were taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. Two are in critical condition, one satisfactory. Of the two in critical condition, one was in the sleeper cab of the wrecked truck, the other was in another diesel truck nearby. The fifth victim was flown to LDS Hospital. That patient just arrived and is still being evaluated by the trauma team.
Highway 6 is a two-lane highway and a major artery to the southeastern part of the state. It will be closed for quite some time as the blast completely destroyed a portion of the road, including the supporting material.
A robot from the Utah County Sheriff's office is being sent to the scene to figure out how to safely deal with about 60 pounds of explosives that have not yet exploded. It is a powerful explosive material, obviously.
Mark Carlton, Witness: "We were just sitting there waiting for someone to come fix our tire about 2:00 or so, and heard a loud explosion. A big old crater in the road, blown out tracks, sent shrapnel over the mountainside and everything."
Kirby Glad, Witness: "When the truck blew it pretty much diminished the entire truck. There is probably just an axle left. You could see the engine block over off on the side of the road and smoldering pieces of the truck were up, probably as high as 40 feet up the side of the hill. It left about a 35 foot crater in the road and took out the railroad tracks next to the road. About ten cars had their windshields forced in or completely blown out."
Some of that shrapnel that landed on the mountainside is still causing smoke and fire. The forest service is sending in an aircraft to start putting out those smoldering spots to prevent a wildfire from breaking out.
This accident is causing a traffic disaster tonight for many drivers. There is no doubt the highway will have to be completely reconstructed. UDOT is still waiting to get their crews onto the scene to assess the damage, and expect it will be a matter of hours before they can get into there. They say it will be a significant fix once repairs can begin.
If you're headed from Moab to Price and on to Helper, take I-15 to I-70 East.
If you're traveling North from Price, take US Highway 191 through Indian Canyon, from there to US 40, on to Duchesne.
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08-10-2005, 11:11 PM #1
UTah-Massive Explosion and Fire Closes Highway
Last edited by UTFFEMT; 08-11-2005 at 02:36 PM.Front line since 1983 and still going strong
08-11-2005, 11:51 AM #2
Fire Crews on hold
Fire crews on hold until area cleared of explosives
Michael Rigert DAILY HERALD
A one-mile debris field left behind after the massive explosion in Spanish Fork Canyon kept firefighters from battling subsequent blazes.
Loyal Clark, a spokeswoman for the Uinta National Forest, said it was decided Wednesday evening at about 7 p.m. that they would wait to send in U.
S. Forest Service fire crew until this morning.
"In a reconnaissance of the area, there is still unexploded ordnance on the hills," she said.
The 38,000 pounds of high-explosives that detonated when a tractor trailer rolled in Spanish Fork Canyon Wednesday afternoon not only injured multiple motorists and obliterated a 75-foot section U.S. 6, but also started several wildfires on both sides of the canyon.
Clark said the main wildfire caused by the explosion was in a 50-acre area of mostly sagebrush and oakbrush on the north side of the highway, although there is also a small 1-acre fire on the south side.
A U.S. Forest Service helicopter made some water drops late Wednesday night that had hit the head of the larger fire, she said.
Clark said a local forest service crew was staged near the fires and would be reinforced by a 20-person crew today.
Firefighters from the Spanish Fork Fire Department, Clark said, were also putting out smaller fires and clearing access areas off of U.S. 6.Front line since 1983 and still going strong
08-12-2005, 02:53 PM #3
U.S. 6 reopening
A major, concerted effort refills blast crater and removes debris
By Nicole Warburton and Jeremy Twitchell
Deseret Morning News
SPANISH FORK CANYON — At midafternoon Thursday, crews were still battling spot fires caused by a massive explosion along U.S. 6.
A train passes on repaired tracks in Spanish Fork Canyon as crews fill the crater left by Wednesday's truck blast.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
The 35-foot deep crater in the highway? Nearly filled.
The road will be open this morning, less than 48 hours after the blast occurred.
"I think it's another example of how Utahns can pull together in a crisis situation and make things happen," said Nile Easton, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation. "When we get our back up to the wall, we can do amazing things."
About 2 p.m. on Thursday, Easton was standing about a quarter-mile from the blast site, watching as crews hauled dirt up the canyon, dumped it, then removed debris. UDOT officials were first allowed on the site about 4 p.m. on Wednesday. By 10 p.m. Wednesday, crews had begun the tedious process of hauling dirt and removing debris.
Less than 20 hours later, crews were waiting to begin paving operations. In total, about 4,500 tons of gravel were used to fill the crater. About 350 loads were taken up the canyon.
The fact that fill work was nearly done within 24 hours of the explosion, said Easton, is a testament to quick action by volunteers and a joint effort with contractors and the state. When work is completed this morning, it will be permanent, he said.
"What we did is rally the troops from all around the county," said Easton. "We have trucks and crews from Nephi, Eureka, all over Utah County here."
Seventeen UDOT snowplow trucks were used to haul fill material. Staker Paving and Construction provided other heavy equipment including backhoes, tractors and asphalt.
Tracy Conti, UDOT Region 3 director, said no major road projects were delayed by the shuffling of UDOT equipment and workers to the blast site. Workers — who were offered overtime pay — were taken from small maintenance projects, he said. The snowplow trucks were not being used at other sites.
As for the cost of repairs, contingency money in UDOT's maintenance budget will be used to pay the contractor. Efforts are being made to seek reimbursement for costs through insurance.
"My supervisors are very, very good at economically doing some amazing things," said Conti. "They love it when they get a situation like this — a real project where there is a lot to do in a short amount of time."
One of the primary challenges UDOT faced was damage to the sandstone wall on the north side of the road. The blast jarred several large boulders loose, so a track-hoe was used to knock them loose, then jackhammers to break them up.
At the work site, crews and machinery were working in a tight area, something that made the job difficult, said Easton. Officials were also on-site from the U.S. Forest Service, railroad and fiber-optic companies.
CentraCom, an independent telephone company, had to replace 416 feet of copper wire and 600 feet of fiber-optic cable that serve the residents of Scofield.
Union Pacific crews had one of the two tracks damaged in the explosion reopened Wednesday evening. The westbound track, which was more heavily damaged, was expected to be completed Thursday evening.
However, the crews with arguably the most difficult job in the wake of the explosion were the firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service.
Debris from the truck showered along the mountainside around the blast area over a radius of as much as 200 yards. Chris Church, the incident commander for the Forest Service, said crews were dealing with about 200 different hot spots. Fortunately, he said, the fires were not spreading.
"Because of all the snow we had last winter, most of the fuels that are higher on the mountain, like the sage and the oak, have a high moisture content," Church said.
The fires spread so slowly, in fact, that the Forest Service didn't put crews on the scene until Thursday morning, citing the potential danger of undetonated explosives. A helicopter began battling the blazes Wednesday night, and 30 firefighters and two engines arrived on the scene Thursday morning.
Church said the fires would be contained by this afternoon at the latest.
The incident remains under investigation by police.
"Speed was definitely a factor," Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Ken Peay said. "We know how fast he was going, but we're not ready to release that at this time."
Peay said UHP will be working with the Utah County Attorney's Office to screen possible charges against Travis Stewart, the truck's driver.
The findings of UHP's investigation will be turned over the County Attorney today, and UHP will wait to see what charges, if any, are filed before issuing any citations.
"We don't want to issue anything right now," Peay said. "You don't ever file a lesser charge that's part of a larger charge."Front line since 1983 and still going strong
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