PALMER, MA – A fiery truck accident Friday night, November 26, forced hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes in Hampden County, Massachusetts. The single vehicle collision involved a tanker truck and occurred near Route 20 on Blanchard Street in the city of Palmer, MA. The truck accident area is just east of Springfield in the far southwest section of the state, about 74 miles west of Boston, MA and about 45 miles north of Hartford, Connecticut.
On Friday evening an unidentified truck driver was driving a semi tanker truck through Hampden County, MA. The tanker section of the truck was filled with approximately 100 gallons of liquefied propane, a very toxic and flammable material. The tanker had the logo for E. Osterman, Inc. a propane company based out of Whitinsville, MA.
The truck accident occurred at about around 7:40 p.m. Friday night as the propane tanker truck moved through the town of Palmer. The driver had just made a delivery at the company’s Osterman Gas station. The semi truck was on Blanchard Street just south of Route 20 when the driver was parking and crashed into a utility pole while he was backing up the tanker. The crash happened near the juncture of Blanchard St. and South Main St. near a residential neighborhood.
No other persons or vehicles were involved in the truck accident.
The force of the crash caused the utility pole’s 23,000 volt grid wires to fall and make contact with the semi’s fuel tanks, and the cab of the tanker truck burst into flames. The driver was able to get out of the cab section and was not injured in the truck accident. The power lines on the pole were damaged, cutting off electricity for most of the neighborhood.
Palmer firefighters and rescue teams quickly responded to the burning tanker truck. Officials found that the fire was contained to the wheels and the cab section but were concerned that the flames could reach the liquid propane and set off an explosion. The decision was made to let the fire burn itself out while keeping the flames away from the tanker section. The Massachusetts State Police sent up a helicopter that flew over the truck accident site. Officers onboard used thermal imaging equipment to find the hot spots on the burning tanker truck and alert the officers on the ground.
As authorities realized the potential danger of the situation the town sent out automated phone calls to homes telling people to evacuate. Other MA State Police officers joined the Palmer police in going door to door to alert people of the danger. They cleared out the homes in a one mile radius of the truck accident site which affected people living on Blanchard, Breckenridge, Park, and South Main. Some residents were sent to the Converse Street School for shelter.
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Police also shut down sections of Route 20 and Route 32 blocking entrance into the area around the truck accident scene. As a precaution they also evacuated some residents in the nearby town of Monson, directing them to the Quarry Hill School.
The truck accident fire burned itself out sometime Friday night. Fortunately the firefighters had successful contained the fire and it never reached the propane tanker. A hazardous materials team was brought it to help clean up the crash site and drain the propane which remained in the tanker.
Officials began letting the residents return to their homes shortly after 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning, about six hours after the truck accident, once they had determined that the neighborhood was safe.
The utility company would send one of their crews to the truck accident site on Saturday morning to replace the utility pole which had burned in the fire. A tow truck would likely be used to haul the cab section which had been destroyed in the truck accident. It is not known if the tanker was damaged or if it can be used in the future.
Police investigating the truck accident have not determined what initially caused the crash. It is possible the unidentified truck driver misjudged the distance as he was backing up the tanker. State and local police would continue to investigate the incident over the weekend.
No charges have been brought against the driver of the tanker, pending the completion of the truck accident investigation.
Gordon Elias & Seely, LLP recommend that if you know anyone who has been injured or killed as the result of a commercial truck accident involving a semi truck, 18 wheeler, big rig, tractor trailer or bus, tell them to immediately contact a qualified truck accident lawyer for advice. Often times the truck company and the truck driver will be from other states other than where the accident occurred. Truck accident attorneys often times have relationships with other experienced truck accident attorneys licensed in other states. Gordon, Elias & Seely LLP are licensed in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Washington, DC and have informal relationships with other truck accident lawyers. For more information, visit their page about MA truck accident lawyers or call 800.773.6770.