Tanker Truck Flips, One Hurt

WEST LIBERTY — Weidman Run Road resident Frank Williams was just trying to get his van’s fuel pump fixed when he heard a loud noise coming toward his home.

“It sounded like a bunch of crunch, crunch — like an explosion,” he said.

The noise was created by the crash of a large tanker truck hauling natural gas fracking lubricant — clay and mineral oil — on W.Va. 88 at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Lou Vargo, Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency director, said the truck lost its brakes, causing it to smash through guardrails, trees and into a creek. The driver, whose name was not available at press time, was taken to Wheeling Hospital where he was treated and released. Williams said when he looked up to see what the commotion was, the truck’s rear end was in the air. The truck then toppled over, coming to rest on its side, the fracking fluid leaking into the creek. Firefighters placed booms and oil-absorbing pads in the water to soak up the lubricant that appeared thick and black.

“My first thought was, where are they boys?” Williams said, referring to his son Frankie, 8, and his son’s cousin, Collin, 7, who had been riding their bikes in the yard minutes before.

Vargo said the truck company, E&S Contracting of Shinnston, W.Va., would have to bring another vehicle to vacuum out the remaining fluid, as the wrecked truck was too heavy to pull out as is.

Williams said after he found Frankie and Collin, who both were in front of the house out of harm’s way, he ran to the truck to see if the driver needed help. The driver was already out of the vehicle.

“I kept looking and I couldn’t see him. … I thought, I need to get him out,” he said.

It was not clear if the man had been ejected from the truck or if someone else had pulled him out. Williams said he found the man lying on the ground near the truck and he was able to speak. One of the man’s lead “wide load” vehicle drivers came back to find the truck after losing sight of him.

“It missed the pool by 10 feet,” Williams said of the tanker.

By about 9 p.m., the tanker had been pulled from the wreck site. Vargo estimated cleaning of the creek would continue today.

Frankie said at the same time he and Collin heard the accident, they were being stung by bees near a lilac bush by his house.

“It was like a big boom,” Frankie said, while taking a break from climbing on a large tree that fell in the yard after being struck by the truck.

Williams noted the curvy and steep portion of W.Va. 88 where the accident occurred has been the site of other wrecks in the past, mostly due to people driving too fast or traveling left of center, he said.

“These trucks here, we’ve never had a problem,” Williams said of the tankers.