Chemical truck crashes in West Virginia, killing driver

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A trucker was killed yesterday when his tanker rig carrying a hazardous chemical crashed on Interstate 68 near Cheat Lake, W.Va.

Residents in nearby neighborhoods were ordered to stay in their homes with the windows closed and heat and ventilation systems turned off for about six hours after the 4:20 a.m. accident to prevent potentially harmful vapors from getting inside.

The quarantine was lifted at 10:45 a.m.

State police in West Virginia closed I-68 to all traffic between Cheat Lake and Coopers Rock. Several alternate routes also were closed and other roadways became congested with traffic.

The accident caused the tanker to spill an undetermined amount of toluene diisocyanate, or TDI. It is a colorless liquid that causes irritation of the membranes of the skin, respiratory system, eyes and throat.

The state's Department of Environmental Protection has identified the chemical as dangerous when it comes in contact with water. The resulting vapors are toxic, said Michael Wolfe, spokesman for the Monongalia County Office of Emergency Management.

Dr. Alan Ducatman, chair of community medicine at West Virginia University, said the chemical is a component of specialty paints and plastics, and is one of the class of chemicals that make modern auto body paints so good.

Firefighters who arrived first on the scene reported that the tanker was lying on its top.

Hazardous materials personnel were dispatched and built a small dam around the spill.

The nearest waterway was several miles away and not threatened, Mr. Wolfe said.

The truck driver, Paul Staley, 40, of New Martinsville, W.Va., was pronounced dead at the scene, Mr. Wolfe said.

Also closed initially was Monongalia County Route 857 from the area of the accident to the Pennsylvania line.


Staff writer Pete Zapadka contributed. Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.


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