Wreck spills 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel | VailDaily.com

Wreck spills 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel

NWS truck wreck KA 3-8-12

EAGLE, Colorado – An accident between an SUV and a tanker truck resulted in the largest chemical spill Eagle County has seen for years.

More than 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from a tanker truck when it was struck by an SUV trying to pass it just east of Eagle, police said.

Both were headed west on Interstate 70 at about 8:10 a.m.

The SUV, a 1997 Toyota 4-Runner driven by Ryan Palmer, of Vail, attempted to pass and clipped the front of the truck when Palmer pulled back into the right lane, according to police.

The truck, a 2010 Peterbilt driven by Mark Rusch, of Pueblo, rolled onto its right side and skidded down the right lane. When it finally stopped, the tanker was partially in the ditch and had a hole punched in it.

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Palmer’s truck careened and rolled all the way across the median strip and stopped on the left lane of the eastbound lane of I-70, according to police.

It spilled 7,000 gallons of its 7,200-gallon load, said the Colorado State Patrol. The State Patrol’s hazardous materials unit was on the scene almost immediately, and most of the spill was contained in the median.

Palmer was cited for driving under the influence of drugs, careless driving, and failing to present evidence of insurance.

Neither Palmer nor Rusch were injured.

The cleanup and investigation closed I-70 for about five hours, with traffic being diverted down U.S. Highway 6.

The accident was cleared by 11 a.m. and the State Patrol reopened the right lane in both directions by 12:34 p.m., said Trooper Josh Lewis, public information with the Colorado State Patrol.

“Any time you have any type of hazmat spill, it’s important to get a cleanup crew working as quickly as possible,” Lewis said. “You’re looking at a significant spill.”

So far, it looks like it’s not a hazard to the Eagle River, Lewis said.

“Still, no matter where it is, it’s always dangerous to spill something like that.”

Cleanup starts Friday morning

All four lanes reopened Thursday afternoon, but the Colorado Department of Transportation will close one lane in each direction beginning Friday morning, as cleanup crews from SWS Environmental Services and the Colorado State Patrol remove the contaminated soil.

Crews will work through the weekend and early next week during daylight hours to begin cleanup, CDOT said.

Both lanes of the interstate will be open during the evenings since no cleanup efforts will be taking place at that time, CDOT said.

There is no estimate as to how long the cleanup process will take, CDOT said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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