Published in the Greenfield Recorder:
By CHRIS CURTIS
Monday, September 21, 2015
A truck driver was in critical condition and firefighters and hazardous material crews worked all day to clean up a spill of acidic aluminum sulfate after a tractor-trailer tanker left the road and crashed down the Factory Hollow embankment by Fall Brook early Monday morning.
The driver, identified by police as Leo Murphy, 58, of Billerica, was in critical condition Monday night at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
The section of highway between Adams Road in Greenfield and the Gill-Montague Bridge in Gill remained closed until about 7 a.m. today. Both lanes were reopened in time for morning commuting although work was expected to continue, which might cause delays, police said.
At 7:20 p.m. Monday, Greenfield Deputy Police Chief Mark Williams said the drained tank had been hauled up the bank onto the road.
Greenfield Police Lt. William Gordon said a passerby called 911 at 3:57 a.m. and police and firefighters found a tanker truck rolled over the embankment at the curve, the driver trapped inside.
The driver remained trapped for about two hours as firefighters worked to free him with “every piece of rescue equipment that we own,” said Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan. Strahan said the tanker was on its side and heavily damaged.
The driver was alert during the extrication. He was brought back up to Route 2 with a Stokes rescue basket and ropes as a helicopter ambulance circled overhead.
Gordon said the driver’s injuries were serious and he was taken to a Worcester hospital by Life Flight helicopter once freed.
Monday night, Gordon confirmed the driver was still alive and was expected to be transferred to Mass General Hospital.
“We have multiple things going on right now, the first thing is we had a rescue to perform, ... there is an ongoing small leak of a hazardous material, aluminium sulfate, it has a high acid concentration. We have it contained but we have not stopped the leak,” Strahan said at 9:30 a.m.
Strahan said the material is dangerous if touched, but is not an inhalation danger and nobody in the area was in danger or had to be evacuated.
Aluminum sulfate is a chemical compound used chiefly in papermaking, water purification and sewage treatment. Williams said the truck, owned by Billerica-based Roy Brothers, was hauling the acid from Adams to another Massachusetts town east of Greenfield for wastewater treatment.
Some of the material made it into the nearby Fall Brook, Strahan said. Strahan said the state hazardous material team was helping with the removal of the truck and product, with environmental clean-up companies Clean Harbors Environmental Services and Western Mass. Environmental, the state Department of Environmental protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Strahan said stopping the leak and removing the tanker from the embankment alone should take 12 hours. The crash also shattered a utility pole and took down phone and power lines. Power had been restored in the area by 9 a.m., but Verizon phone and Eversource power crews were waiting to finish repairs.
Greenfield police are in charge of the accident investigation, assisted by state police. Gordon said there was no immediate sign of the cause. “Not even brake marks. It appears the truck drove directly into the guardrail without being able to maneuver,” he said.
Another tractor-trailer rolled over in the same spot Sept. 4, also in the early morning hours. The driver in that accident was trapped by power lines for about 90 minutes, but reportedly escaped with an injured hand.
Police diverted westbound truck traffic aiming for Interstate 91 up Main Road in Gill to Route 10 in Northfield and over to Route 63, Gordon said.
Traffic backed up down the Turners Falls Road hill into Turners Falls at rush hour, drivers evidently bound for Route 2 east.
Factory Hollow Road was open for residents of the road only Monday, with residents asked to check in with the police at the Adams Road and Route 2 intersection.
An unrelated accident added to the scene Monday morning on the Gill end, where a tractor trailer leaked what firefighters said was nonhazardous red ink.