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Front Page » September 7, 2006 » Local News » Hazmat, Law Enforcement Agencies Investigate Scene Of Exp...
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Hazmat, Law Enforcement Agencies Investigate Scene Of Explosive Materials Spill

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Jason Llewelyn examines the packaging that contained explosives spilled on U.S. Highway 6 while he contacts the manufacturer of the materials. Law enforcement and HAZMAT investigators determined that the detonators and non-electric cable were lost off a semi-truck transporting the materials from Moab to Uintah County.

A box of detonators and non-electric cords that apparently fell off a transport truck on U.S. Highway 6 between Wellington and Price created a potentially dangerous situation early Tuesday.

The box of explosive devices ended up costing emergency crews almost a day to secure and clean up the scene. The operation also entailed calling in the Utah County Sheriff's Office bomb squad.

The initial report that the materials were in the westbound lane of U.S. 6 north of the Church of Christ came into the dispatch center at 7 a.m. on Sept. 5. The caller said he saw materials thrown from a pickup truck while he was taking his wife to work. The man said he stopped to move the materials off the road and realized what they were so he called authorities.

First on the scene was the Carbon County Sheriff's Office and Wellington city police.The law enforcement authyorities examined the materials and contacted Jason Llewelyn, the county's HAZMAT director.

After arriving at the incident scene, Llewelyn called in the HAZMAT crew and equipment. The HAZMAT director then evaluated the situation for the dangers it posed to passersby and nearby homes.

Soon, a half dozen HAZMAT crew members, the Utah Highway Patrol, Wellington and Price fire personnel as well as additional police officers from around the county responded to the incident.

The right lane of the highway was closed to traffic and nearby residents were warned not to come out of their homes until the situation was cleared.

As the HAZMAT crews and law enforcement personnel investigated the scene, they found that there was at least one box of the explosive materials on the road.

The detonator cord was strewn along the highway for about a half a block. Orange in color, the material contains explosives because it is used as the fuse for blasting operations. Once activated, the fuse moves at between 24,000 and 30,000 feet per second.

The crews found the container of the materials and Llewelyn contacted the company that manufactures and distributes the explosives.

The company, Dyno Nobel, is based in Salt Lake and has a shipping warehouse in Moab.

Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont and Helper Police Officer Kevin Saccomano, both members of the Carbon County HAZMAT team, look over detonator cords that spilled on U.S. Highway 6 between Price and Wellington. The two boxes of detonators and non-electric detonator line were ultimately determined to have been lost off a semi truck that was transporting them from Moab to Uintah County.

Company representatives told Llewelyn that the explosives in question were being shipped from Moab to the Ouray quarry in Uintah County.

The semi-tractor trailer carrying the particular box had reportedly left Moab at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

Authorities were puzzled because the initial reports indicated that the materials came out of a pickup, yet the explosives on the side of the road were supposed to be in the semi-truck.

"After we investigated, we found that a door to the compartment where the explosives are in the semi was not secured and it must have swung open and two boxes fell out," explained the HAZMAT director on Wednesday morning.

"The original witness said he was sure the boxes were thrown from a pickup. But it was still dark that early in the monring and we think the truck just hit one of the boxes and threw it into the air, so it appeared that way," added Llewelyn.

As HAZMAT personnel examined the explosive devices, the crew members found that the majority of the material was undamaged.

But some of the detonators had been run over and flattened by vehicles traveling on U.S. 6. Crews were sent out to search about a mile on each side of the road to make sure that no other boxes of the explosives or stragglers of the original spill were present. Those crews found nothing more.

According to authorities, these devices are relatively safe and can only be set off by sparks. However, considering they were on the roadway and could be subjected to such extreme conditions, there was great concern. In addition, while the chances of the devices exploding were small, the county decided that cleaning them up themselves would not be a good or safe idea. At that point Lewellyn called in the Utah County Sheriff's bomb squad.

The manufacturing company also sent a safety representative to the scene to investigate and observe.

The Utah County bomb squad showed up at the scene about 10:30 a.m. Meanwhile authorities had blocked off both the lanes headed north on Highway 6 and had turned the center turn lane into the lane in which northbound traffic could travel.

An ambulance was called, just in case there was an injury to the crew cleaning up the mess. At about 11 a.m. the bomb squad started to cut the detonators from the cords and place them in a special trailer designed to haul explosives. They bundled the undamaged detonators 10 into a bundle and then removed the damaged ones separately. They also cleaned up the cord that was along side the road as well.

The explosive devices were then transported to the Carbon County landfill where a trench had been prepared to place them in for detonation and disposal. The crew then blew the materials up. The road was cleaned up and reopened by about 1 p.m. and the materials were detonated sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m.

"In the end we found that two boxes had fallen out of the semi," said Lewellyn. "We recovered 120 detonators and 1500 feet of cord, exactly what would have been packed in two containers."

This incident highlights the many hazardous materials that flow through the county each day and follows a number of incidents that have occurred in the last year along the corridor, including the blast in Red Narrows last August and a gas truck explosion that killed the driver in that same place earlier this year.

In addition the problem that occurred on Tuesday morning follows up another incident early last spring when a truck lost its trailer filled with explosive material a few miles down Highway 6 from Tuesday's situation. The semi trailer came off as the truck tried to cross over the highway from Walker's Truck Stop near Soldier Creek Road. That incident closed down the highway for many hours in both directions until the trailer and its contents could be moved safely.

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