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Truck carrying explosives overturns in Sheffield

A truck carrying 18,000 pounds of explosive material went off New Duck Pond Road in Sheffield and rolled over Monday morning.

There were no injuries or explosions, but the road was shut down for most of the day.

Sheffield-Wheelock Fire Chief Marc Brown examines a blasting company truck that slid-off New Duck Pond Road in Sheffield Monday while a passing highway department truck sands the slippery roadway. PHOTO BY TODD WELLINGTON

The 2004 Mack bulk tanker operated by Jonathan Ingerson, 25, Whitehall, N.Y., was heading up a steep hill about 7 a.m. when it lost traction in snowy conditions and slid backward into a ditch before tipping over onto the driver’s side.

The truck, owned by Maine Drilling of Blasting of Gardiner, Maine, was on its way to the Sheffield wind farm construction site with nearly 2,000 gallons of 1.5 blasting agent used for construction demolition. The tank was not ruptured in the crash, none of the explosive material leaked from the truck and there were no blasting caps on the truck.

Maine Drilling and Blasting officials say the material is a gooey liquid similar in texture to tapioca. They said the blend is so stable and posed so little risk of accidental explosion that the decision was made to just leave the blasting agent in the tank while two commercial wreckers pulled the truck from the ditch.

The truck did leak anti-freeze into a nearby stream. That leak was contained and cleaned up by the Sheffield-Wheelock Fire Department and the state hazardous material response team.

Vermont State Police said an investigation of the crash is being conducted by a Department of Motor Vehicles commercial vehicle inspector. The truck went off the road about a mile from its destination.

Maine Drilling and Blasting vice president Mitch Green was on the scene by 11 a.m. and said he was there to investigate the crash and to make sure the site was properly cleaned up.

“We take this very seriously,” said Green.

The Sheffield-Wheelock Fire Department was initially dispatched to the scene at 7:15 a.m. after receiving a report of a rollover about half a mile north of the New Duck Pond/Old Duck Pond Road intersection near the Interstate 91 underpasses.

The dirt roads were slippery with a coating of fluffy new snow at the time of the crash and temperatures were around 30 degrees.

The road was quickly shut down with barricades set up at the intersection. An employee of Maine Drilling and Blasting said he was directed to prevent anyone from coming within 1,000 feet of the scene.

Another truck, a dual-wheel, one-ton pickup towing a trailer load of light-duty pipe, stopped at the foot of Old Duck Pond Road at the intersection of Route 122 in Sheffield. A heavy-duty construction forklift was unloading the trailer with partial loads of pipe and driving the pipe several miles uphill and unloading it at another construction site after the truck was apparently unable to climb the hill. Trucks from the The Sheffield Highway Department were called in to sand the slippery roads.

An emergency rescue van from the Lyndonville Fire Department was also dispatched to the scene. According to Lyndonville Fire Chief Greg Hopkins, the rescue van is well equipped to deal with haz-mat materials and was dispatched to stand by at the scene to assist the Sheffield-Wheelock Fire Department, if necessary. Another crew from the Lyndonville Fire Department stationed a fire truck and crew at the Sheffield-Wheelock fire station to cover for them. Sheffield-Wheelock firefighters cleared the scene just after 4:30 p.m.

The Sheffield wind farm is being developed by the Boston-based First Wind company. Maine Drilling and Blasting is a subcontractor on the project.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said his understanding was that the truck slid on ice.

“Safety is a top priority for First Wind,” he said, “and we take pains to ensure that our contractors – from everything to engineering to construction and operations – working on our projects are qualified and have excellent safety records. Thankfully no one was injured. We applaud the Sheffield Fire Department’s quick response to the accident.”

Staff writers Jim Jardine and Amy Ash Nixon contributed to this story.