Careless driving charged in hazmat spill

By Chris Collins

A truck driver who lost control of his vehicle and spilled a dangerous chemical along Interstate 84 near Durkee early Sunday morning has been cited on a charge of careless driving.

Ronald Hanes, 61, of Sacramento, Calif., lost control of the truck and its 4,200-gallon load of tetramethylammonium after reaching for something as he traveled in the eastbound freeway lanes, Oregon State Police said Thursday. The chemical was spilled when the truck and the box trailer rolled.

The crash happened at 12:45 a.m. at Milepost 324, three miles north of Durkee. Hanes was driving for Lesaint Chemical Logistics of Portland, according to OSP Sgt. Ty Duby.

Hanes was picked up by four people traveling through the area in a Nissan Pathfinder. They were Kourtney Broeker, 29, of Fruitland, Idaho; Shantelle Nay, 28, of Weiser, Idaho; and Daniel Thatcher-Carter, 27, and Walter Allen Williams, 61, both of Ontario.

Three Baker City Fire Department employees met the group at Milepost 321 where police stopped traffic for the safety of travelers. The freeway was closed three miles east of the scene also.

Fire Chief Jim Price said the five people exposed to the chemical were required to remove their clothing so their bodies could be decontaminated. They were sprayed with water supplied by a mini-pumper brought to the scene by the Baker Rural Fire Department.

Their clothing was left at the site for the hazardous materials cleanup crew and the Nissan Pathfinder was towed. The vehicle also required decontamination, police said.

Price said the spilled chemical is dangerous to inhale and can cause serious to fatal nerve and respiratory problems.

The truck driver and the four who stopped to help him were taken to St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City for more thorough decontamination. They were assessed for injuries and then released, Duby said.

Both freeway lanes were closed overnight between Baker City and Ontario. The westbound travel lanes were reopened at 8 a.m. and the left eastbound lane was reopened at 9:45 a.m., police said. The right lane of eastbound traffic is closed intermittently as hazardous materials teams continue the cleanup.