Sunday Freeway Stack Up: Chemical spill halts travelers

By By Chris Collins November 04, 2013 10:20 am

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald --- Rich Shaver, ODOT employee, keeps order on Campbell Street. The westbound freeway opened about 8 a.m. and eastbound opened at 9:45 a.m.

One eastbound freeway lane near Durkee to be closed intermittently while cleanup effort continues

By Chris Collins

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Interstate 84 was closed for several hours between Baker City and Ontario on Sunday morning after a truck carrying a hazardous chemical crashed near Durkee.

The truck, which was carrying  4,200 gallons of tetramethylammonium hydroxide, was driven by Ronald Hanes, 61, of Sacramento, Calif., according to Oregon State Police Sgt. Ty Duby. The crash happened in the eastbound lanes at 12:45 a.m. at Milepost 324, three miles north of Durkee. The trucking company is Lesaint Chemical Logistics of Portland.

 

Hanes was picked up by a passing vehicle carrying four other people, Duby said in a press release.

Baker City Police officer Wayne Bailey and Baker County Sheriff’s Deputy John Hoopes were the first on the scene, stopping traffic from about three miles out in each direction, Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner said today. Oregon State Police officers arrived a short time later.

Baker City Fire Chief Jim Price said he and two other on-duty Fire Department employees headed to the scene after first determining how to best approach the situation.

Price sounded a general alarm to get additional personnel to the station to cover while he and his crew headed to the crash.

Initially they expected to have to pull the driver from the wreck while protecting themselves from the contamination, Price said.

In checking their hazardous chemicals reference book, he said they learned that the chemical is dangerous to inhale and can cause serious nerve and respiratory issues, which can be fatal.

When he called 911, the driver alerted dispatchers of the danger. He also notified the group who stopped to help him that they were exposed to the toxic chemical, Price said.

The ambulance met them at Milepost 231 where traffic was stopped. Price said the men stripped off their clothes, in the cold, windy weather so that their bodies could be flushed with water supplied by a mini-pumper brought to the scene by four Baker Rural Fire Department volunteers.

“We had lots of wool blankets to keep them warm and for modesty,” Price said.

The clothing was left at the scene for the hazardous materials cleanup crew.

The five were then transported to St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City where they were decontaminated more thoroughly and assessed for injuries before being released.