Driver killed in tanker crash; Ethanol spill closes road, nearby homes evacuated

Published 12:56 am Friday, April 3, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

N.C. Highway Patrol officials have identified the driver of a tanker that overturned on Bringle Ferry Road on Thursday morning, spilling ethanol, as James Richard Sechler, 62.

Sechler, of Shinn Farm Road, Mooresville, was killed when the truck went off the road and overturned.
N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper J.G. Leonard said there is still no indication of what caused the crash. Officials will have to await a report from the medical examiner, which could take weeks.

“Speed does not appear to be a factor. There was no braking prior to impact,” Leonard said.

The driver was the only one in the truck, Leonard confirmed.

Emergency crews worked all day to contain the contaminant, which did spill into a nearby creek and onto the ground in the front of a home at 11510 Bringle Ferry Road, near Panther Creek Road and not far west of the Pooletown area. Bringle Ferry Road was blocked off at Panther Creek Road on one end and Surratt Road on the other, while crews continued to work throughout the day.

Leonard said crews remained at the scene until well after 8 p.m., and the road remained closed.

Residents at that home where the crash occurred and at three other nearby homes had to be evacuated until the crash site was cleared and the ethanol removed. One home across the street from the crash was far enough from the road that the property owners did not have to evacuate, but were contained inside their home. No residents were harmed.

The accident occurred around 6:45 a.m., said Frank Thomason, head of emergency services.

The tanker was from a company called Eco Systems based in Franklin, Tenn., but the driver had just returned from a fueling terminal in Denton. Sechler was carrying 8,000 gallons of ethanol. Officials were unsure of how much of that 8,000 spilled onto the roadway.

Sechler was still inside the cab of the tractor trailer for much of the day because crews had to clean up the ethanol spill and roll the tanker over before they could remove his body.

The N.C. Highway Patrol investigated the crash, but because of the fuel spill they were not able to begin an in-depth investigation until late Thursday afternoon. Contributing circumstances to the crash have not yet been determined.

Leonard said officials at the scene said early on they would need to await the arrival of another truck to pump out the remaining fuel before the tractor trailer could be righted. Sometime before 5 p.m., a truck arrived to pump out the remaining fuel.

According to a release from the N.C. Department of Public Safety, the leak was contained before 11 a.m. and the scene around that time was considered safe.

Thomason said there was a potential risk of the alcohol exploding. He said the substance was highly flammable, but crews poured foam onto the truck and liquid. Crews also used absorbent booms to soak up some of the material.

There were 27 agencies on the scene totaling 75 personnel.

Responding from Rowan County: Pooletown Fire, Salisbury Fire,  Rowan-Salisbury HazMat team, Rowan County Telecommunications, Rowan County Emergency Services (Emergency Management, Fire, & EMS Divisions), Gold Hill Fire, Liberty Fire, Rowan County Rescue, Miller Ferry Fire, N.C. Highway Patrol, Rowan County Sheriff’s Department, Locke Fire, Bostian Heights Fire, Rockwell City Fire, Faith Fire, Granite Quarry Fire, Union Fire and Rockwell Rural Fire;

From state and regional resources: Regional Haz Mat Response Team 7 – Charlotte,  N.C. Emergency Management, N.C. Division of Water Quality, Charlotte Fire Department and N.C. Army Air National Guard; N.C. Dept. of Transportation.

From Davidson Country: Healing Springs Fire and Southmont Fire;

And other local resources: The American Red Cross.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.