Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Washington truck driver listed as 'critical' in Boise hospital as workers continue to clean up hazardous spill

The eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 between Baker City and La

Grande reopened at 1:30 this morning after being closed for more than

eight hours because of a tanker truck crash that spilled several

hundred gallons of liquid acid onto the shoulder of the freeway just

north of the Baker Valley Rest Area about 5 p.m. Monday.

The truck driver, Charles Neudorf, 57, of Tacoma, Wash., is in

critical condition today at St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, according

to Jennifer Krajnik, hospital spokeswoman.

Neudorf was hurt when his 2007 Kenworth semi-truck and tanker trailer rolled on the right shoulder of Interstate 84 near Milepost 292, Oregon State Police Lt. Dave MacManiman said in a press release issued Monday night.

Emergency responders extricated Neudorf from the wreckage and transported him first to St. Elizabeth Health Services in Baker City, where he was stabilized. He later was flown by air ambulance to the Boise hospital.

MacManiman said Neudorf's truck and trailer went off the shoulder after Neudorf tried to avoid hitting a slow-moving 1997 Ford Escort wagon driven by Samantha Martin, 19, of Island City. The vehicles did not collide, and Martin was not hurt, MacManiman said.

Martin was traveling between 30 mph and 50 mph with her emergency flashers on because her car was having mechanical trouble, MacManiman said. The truck came up behind Martin's car and then went onto the right shoulder to avoid a crash.

After it hit the shoulder, the truck rolled once and the trailer came to rest on its side, spilling an estimated 300 to 400 gallons of the 3,700 gallons of liquid chromic acid it was carrying, MacManiman said.

First responders secured the scene after discovering the hazardous material, which becomes an inhalation hazard when it mixes with air, he said.

Baker County Sheriff's Deputy Nathan Lay was exposed to the fumes, which he said smelled similar to fertilizer, when he first arrived at the scene shortly after the crash, Sheriff Mitch Southwick said today. Lay was admitted to St. Elizabeth Health Services overnight for observation and was expected to be released today.

The deputy was exposed while working to keep freeway travelers stopped at the scene away from the hazard, Southwick said. Lay developed a headache, sweating, chills and tightness in his chest about an hour after the exposure, Southwick said. The deputy drove himself to the hospital.

Interstate 84 was closed in both directions from La Grande to the 302 exit at Baker City for nearly four hours as the cleanup got under way.

Westbound traffic lanes were re-opened at about 8:45 p.m. Monday. The eastbound lanes remained closed to all truck traffic east of Pendleton and passenger car traffic was detoured around the scene via Highway 30 between North Powder and Baker until the lanes re-opened early this morning.

MacManiman said the liquid acid that didn't leak from the truck was removed from the wrecked tanker and pumped into a second truck brought to the site by PCS, a Washington trucking firm.

Steve Ritch Environmental and Construction of Baker City remained at the site to continue the cleanup, which is expected to continue throughout Tuesday, MacManiman said. One lane of eastbound traffic will remain closed between Mileposts 290 and 292 during the process.

Officers from the Baker and La Grande OSP Area Commands also were continuing their investigation Tuesday.

MacManiman said an incident command was established at the scene shortly after the crash with officers from the Baker County Sheriff's Office, Baker Fire Department, North Powder Fire Department, Oregon Department of Transportation, and a La Grande Hazardous Material Team assisting state police.

Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Emergency Response System also joined the effort. The incident command remained in place until about 10 p.m. Monday, MacManiman said.