Local News

Tanker Overturns in Johnston, Spilling Gasoline

Posted February 22, 2008 8:23 a.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2008 5:48 p.m. EST

— Clean-up efforts will continue for a couple days after a fully loaded gasoline tanker overturned in Johnston County Friday morning, bringing environmental crews to try to capture leaking fuel.

The tanker overturned on Dunn Road near Branch Chapel Road, pinning the driver, Kevin McCauley, 38, of Raleigh, inside.

Rescue workers struggled to extricate McCauley while dealing with two large leaks from the tanker. Selma firefighters laid down foam on the flammable gasoline.

"It was a very dangerous situation for us and the driver," Selma Fire Chief Phillip McDaniel said.

"As many gallons as we've got on the ground, just one spark is all it'd take, and we'd have everybody engulfed in fire," Wilson's Mills Fire Chief Ricky Barbour said.

Crews pulled out McCauley after a half an hour. He was taken to Wake Med. Authorities did not know details of his condition, but did not think his injuries were life threatening.

Multiple fire departments responded, and four fire chiefs oversaw efforts to clean up the leaking fuel in hopes of preventing a major environmental problem.

"We're diking it, ditching it, trying to catch it ... because if it makes it to the wood line, it's a swampy area," Barbour said. "That's why we're hoping the rain is going to hold off for us."

McCauley had just filled up the tanker before the crash, troopers said. Emergency crews estimated the tanker spilled about 2,200 gallons – about a quarter of the load normally carried by a full 18-wheel tanker.

Environmental workers pumped the remaining gasoline from the tanker and then set to work trying to recover the portion that leaked. The tanker truck was removed around 1 p.m.

Authorities were most concerned about the possibility of the gasoline getting into a nearby swamp or soaking deeply into the ground. Crews will likely continue the clean-up efforts for a couple of days.

State troopers said they would charge McCauley with driving too fast for conditions. He lost control of the tanker as it rounded a curve, and it rolled into a field, they said.

McCauley has received five speeding tickets over the past 15 years in multiple states, authorities said. He most recently appeared in a Wake County court for a traffic violation in January 2007.

The accident happened on a rural stretch of Dunn Road, so it did not have a major traffic impact during the morning commute. The road was expected to be reopened sometime Friday afternoon.

No homes or businesses had to be evacuated.