KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- A truck hauling 8,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel broke through the guardrail on Route 7 shortly before noon on Wednesday, spilling what fuel did not burn up into the Shingle Hollow Creek, which runs between the road and Tibbits State Forest.
Hoosick Fire Department Chief William Rifenburgh said fire crews were summoned to the area east of the Man of Kent on Route 7 for a report of a rollover crash involving a fuel truck that had caught fire and exploded. The truck traveled 150 feet off the road into the creek, causing fuel to run down river. Gasoline could be smelled roughly a mile east, where the road was closed by the Stewart's Shops at Route 22 and Route 7.
New York State Police Sgt. James Allendorph, supervisor for the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division assigned to Troop G said the driver of the gas truck was found walking on the roadside by a passing motorist and driven to the Stewart's Shops, where a local ambulance was flagged down. That ambulance transferred the driver, a 34-year-old Massachusetts man, to a Mohawk Ambulance which then took him to Albany Medical Center. From there he was taken to Westchester Medical Center. Allendorph said the driver suffered burns to his hands and face and possibly his respiratory system.
Allendorph said the driver's name has not been released. He said he does not have enough information yet to speculate on a cause for the crash but said he did not notice skid marks that would indicate the truck's brakes had been locked up.
Most of the truck had burned up in the fire, leaving two large pieces to be towed out.
"Normally we would inspect the truck at this point," said Allendorph, adding he was surprised to see how quickly the fire destroyed the vehicle. He said he arrived on scene within the hour of it being reported and by then it was largely gone.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation was on hand to slow the spread of the fuel spill.
Rifenburgh said large truck crashes on that stretch of Route 7 are not uncommon but did not know how it compared to similar stretches of highway.
"There are lot of tractor trailer accidents along this stretch of road, it is a winding stretch of road," he said. "There are suggested speed reductions for traffic."
Rifenburgh said trucks heading east down hill mostly come from being loaded at the Port of Albany or the Port of Rensselear "Typically high speed is not always the issue," he said, adding that it was early in the investigation.
Last year a propane truck went off the road and caught fire about half a mile west of the latest crash. The driver escaped injury there, while the truck burned for two days, scorching a 100-yard circle of roadway and trees as residences within a one mile radius were evacuated and a no-fly zone was declared over the area.
Allendorph said the propane truck last year did not rupture enough for the fuel to spill out, so when it began to burn off it heated the fuel inside. He said when propane boils it poses an explosion risk. The gas truck that crashed Wednesday, owned by J.P. Noonan Transportation, had ruptured more spilling most of its fuel into the creek.