Local emergency crews responded to two separate incidents involving truck accidents Monday, both of which involved diesel spills and hazardous materials cleanup.
A driver who fell asleep at the wheel caused the first crash, in which his flatbed truck careened off a southbound lane of Highway 101 at Patterson Avenue and landed in a creek shortly before 7 a.m. Later in the day, an 18-wheeler heading northbound on Highway 101 overturned just north of Gaviota Creek, spilling roughly 150 gallons of diesel fuel on the road and forcing closure of the northbound lanes.
Officer Don Clotworthy, California Highway Patrol spokesman, said Monday morning’s accident on southbound Highway 101 occurred when 23-year-old driver Robert Knox fell asleep. Knox, who was on his way to a Camarillo work site in his Precision Drilling Co. truck, was also towing a small trailer loaded with drilling equipment behind him.
Clotworthy said Knox’s truck veered off of the freeway just south of Patterson, raced down the embankment and launched off of the culvert of Maria Ignacio Creek, which runs along the freeway. He said Knox’s vehicle flew across the creek before colliding with the other side of the culvert.
“The truck kind of flew over the creek and then hit the other side,” Clotworthy said. “That crunched it up pretty good, and then it came to rest in the creek.”
The force of the impact caused the truck’s fuel tank to crack, releasing diesel fuel into the creek. The creek eventually flows into the ocean. Clotworthy said officers who responded to the scene called the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Hazardous Materials Response Team, as well as the California Dept. of Fish and Game, who must be alerted any time pollutants are released into a water source.
“County Hazmat built two dams on either side of the spill, which minimized the spill’s flow into the ocean,” Clotworthy said.
Clotworthy said it took the hazmat team until early afternoon to finish cleaning the spill, during which time the southbound Highway 101 onramp at Patterson was closed.
Knox was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and treated for a fractured right ankle and back pains. No other vehicles were involved in the accident.
“Thankfully nobody was seriously injured, though this did inconvenience a lot of people,” Clotworthy said. “It’s one of those incidents where it could have been a lot worse.”
In the second truck accident, an 18-wheeler truck overturned on a northbound lane of Highway 101, near Gaviota Creek at approximately 4:28 p.m. Capt. Diondray Wiley of the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. said the driver told officers he had overcorrected after strong winds pushed his vehicle toward the outside of its lane.
Wiley said the impact of the roll punctured the truck’s fuel tank, releasing approximately 150 gallons of diesel gas onto the road. He said the impact also cracked the engine crank of the truck, causing motor oil to spill out onto the road as well.
“We basically had engine oil and diesel fuel running down the northbound lanes of [Highway] 101,” Wiley said.
The accident forced the closure of the highway northbound at Gaviota Creek, while firefighters built a dike to contain the spill and prevent it from flowing into nearby storm drains. Firefighters also plugged the leak in the truck’s tank, Wiley said.
Around 8:30 p.m. three tow trucks arrived at the accident scene to lift the car and remove it from the site. At press time, Wiley said the trucks were in the process of inflating large airbags underneath the overturned vehicle to raise it. He said clearing the accident would probably take until midnight.
Clotworthy said CHP officers rerouted traffic into one of the southbound lanes of Highway 101 and redirected it back to the northbound lanes after they had passed the spill site.
‘Traffic’s moving,” Clotworthy said. “It’s just going slow right now.”