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Update: Chemical spill closes I-70

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PUTNAMVILLE -- A one-vehicle accident Monday afternoon claimed the life of a tanker truck driver and created a hazardous materials spill on Interstate-70 near the Putnam-Clay county line.

At approximately 4:15 p.m., Monday, a tanker truck, reportedly carrying the industrial solvent acetone, left the roadway for an unknown reason, striking a cement bridge support near County Road 775 West, just east of the 30-mile marker in the westbound lanes of I-70.

No other vehicles were involved.

Upon impact, the tanker trailer overturned and nearly broke in half, releasing approximately 6,000 gallons of highly flammable hazardous industrial solvent.

The vehicle, owned by Quality Carrier, based in Florida, ended up in the median of the interstate, spilling the greenish liquid that first responders indicated, "smelled like ether."

The hazardous materials unit from the Cloverdale Fire Department was sent to the scene and the Greencastle Fire Department's HazMat crew also responded to assist at approximately 4:45 p.m.

With the chemical considered extremely flammable, fire and police personnel used extreme caution around the accident scene.

Authorities responding to the scene initially indicated the entrapment of the truck driver and summoned LifeLine emergency helicopter for the possible transport of the victim.

However, just before 5 p.m., LifeLine was disregarded en route as it became obvious the incident was a fatality.

By then, both east and westbound lanes of the interstate were shut down between United States 231 and State Road 59 and traffic was rerouted to United States 40 via State Road 243, U.S. 231, and SR 59.

On Tuesday morning, officials with the Putnam County Coroner's Office stated the driver of the vehicle was George F. Leggett, 65, Columbus, Ohio.

An autopsy was scheduled for 10 a.m., Tuesday, at Terre Haute Regional Hospital.

Authorities were still on the scene late Monday evening.

"State troopers, emergency crews and (Indiana Department of Transportation) workers were on the scene working feverishly to open partial lanes," Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts said. "Best estimate is (reopening) by morning rush hour."

Watts said hazardous material crews from Indianapolis and New Albany also assisted in cleanup.

The chemical was also said to be present in a ditch along the south side of I-70.

Fire officials on the scene created a berm to keep the liquid from getting to the nearby Croy's Creek, which feeds into the Eel River.

Westbound lanes of I-70 were opened at approximately 5:20 a.m., Tuesday morning, followed by the eastbound lanes at 6:30 a.m.

Additional cleanup was scheduled to take place at 10 a.m., Tuesday, with some lane restrictions and slowed traffic expected near the mile marker.

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Prayer go out for the victim's family.

-- Posted by Tala on Tue, Dec 27, 2011, at 10:23 AM

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