Nitrogen-carrying truck rolls over on C.R. 52
Accident closes road for about 7 hours
December 15, 2004
A tractor-trailer carrying liquid nitrogen rolled onto its side early Wednesday, closing Routt County Road 52 for about seven hours and creating a hazardous materials issue.
The truck rolled over at about 3:30 a.m., said Routt County Emergency Services Manager Chuck Vale. The accident occurred on C.R. 52 about one mile north of U.S. Highway 40, near Mount Harris.
The truck was traveling north when it rolled onto its right side and stopped at the right edge of the road before sliding into Wolf Creek, Vale said.
“That was the good side of this accident,” Vale said.
Because the truck was carrying 530,000 cubic feet of liquid nitrogen, the Craig Moffat County Hazardous Materials Team, as well as the West Routt Fire Protection District, responded.
The heavy load of liquid gas meant the truck was too heavy to shift upright, Vale said, and emergency workers were not able to offload the material onto another truck because release valves were inaccessible as the truck was on its right side.
Instead, workers chose to release nitrogen gas into the atmosphere.
Nitrogen naturally occurs in the air and does not pose a problem except in areas where it is very concentrated, Vale said. When the gas was released from the truck it created a huge cloud that, if approached, could be harmful, Vale said.
Emergency workers created a 300-foot evacuation area while gas was being released.
“Of course, we’re in a rural area, so that really helped,” Vale said.
Workers made sure no livestock were in the area.
The road was closed to traffic while the gas was being released, but workers shut off the gas valve to let vehicles pass through at certain times.
By 9 a.m., wreckers were able to tip the truck back up, and the road officially opened at 10:30 a.m., Vale said.
The Colorado State Patrol did not have details about the cause of the accident as of Wednesday afternoon.
The driver of the truck was transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center, but later was released, Vale said.
Liquid nitrogen has a variety of uses. In this case, the nitrogen was to be used in drilling area oil wells, Vale said. The tractor-trailer was owned by BTI, a trucking company based in Laramie, Wyo.
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