A propane truck driver is recovering at home after his truck overturned on Highway 167 and shut down traffic for eight hours Feb. 17.
"It's very scary, very scary," said Oscar Ballard who saw the accident from his home across the highway. "I don't see how it kept from killing him."
According to Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver, the accident occurred just before 8:45 a.m. when the southbound Stateline Propane truck, driven by Kurt Garrett of Salem, ran off the right side of the road, then crossed the left side of the highway and rolled into the driveway of Conway's Sawmill, four miles south of Ash Flat.
Pete Reilly, Sharp County Office of Emergency Management coordinator, said the cab of the truck was demolished. Garrett was found lying by one of the back wheels.
He was transported to Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System by ambulance and was later air-lifted to Elvis Presley Trauma Center in Memphis with a severe neck injury, Weaver said. When he was admitted he was listed in critical condition. He was discharged Sunday, a hospital spokesperson said.
The fittings that attached the tanks to the truck broke during the crash and the propane tank came off the truck. Gas began leaking from two small holes that were exposed by the fittings, one the size of a quarter and another the size of a dime, Reilly said. The tank was filled to capacity with 2,600 gallons of propane.
Ballard said he saw the vapors from the tank from his home.
"The truck just turned over and he just lost his tank and it started spewing," Ballard said. "It was spewing higher than the guide wires."
Law enforcement officers closed the highway within a half-mile radius of the accident. The sawmill was also shut down and three neighboring homes were evacuated until the gas could be contained.
Arkansas State Trooper Cpl. Wendall Jines worked the accident and helped coordinate traffic control while crews worked to control the leak. Sharp County Sheriff's deputies, Ash Flat Police, Cave City Police and the Arkansas Highway Department helped block traffic, Weaver said.
Four roadblocks were set up south of the accident from Cave City to Camp Ground Road. More roadblocks were set up from Ash Flat to Fairgrounds Road. Traffic was rerouted through Center and Poughkeepsie by way of Highways 58 and 354.
Larger trucks were routed through Highway 63 to Highway 115 because of the heavier loads.
The Independence County Hazmat team was called to the scene as well as Arkansas State Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board Director Sharon Coates, Reilly said.
Coates plugged the holes with wooden pegs, Reilly said. The extra propane was burned before Lynn's Wrecker Service could move the truck and tank.
Crews, including the Ash Flat Fire Department, stayed on the scene until after 10 p.m. working the accident.
"Everything went smooth," Reilly said. "It went as well as could be expected. It just takes a while with those things."