Tanker driver averts potential disaster

By Bob Robinson

Star Staff

   A potentially disastrous situation was averted early yesterday morning due to the quick thinking of the driver of a tanker loaded with 6,000 gallons of gasoline.
   Elizabethton Fire Chief Mike Shouse credited the driver of the Volunteer Oil Co. tanker, Charles Lee Carter, 8 Lambeth Court, Johnson City, with preventing a worse case scenario.
   A gasoline fire erupted when a car, driven by Sam Henry Malone Jr., 140 Central Ave., Johnson City, traveling west on Parkway Blvd., attempted to turn left onto Elk Avenue and struck the gasoline tanker traveling west on Elk Avenue.
   The collision sheered off two tanker valves, spilling an estimated 15 to 20 gallons of gasoline which immediately ignited from the sparks and heat. The tanker's valves are used to pump gasoline into underground fuel tanks.
   Chief Shouse said the trucker kept an eye on the trailing fuel fire and pulled away from the flames or the accident could have been worse.
   The safety shut off valve inside the belly of the tanker also prevented additional gasoline from pouring onto the ground and igniting, possibly preventing an explosion, Chief Shouse added.
   Seven firefighters from the Elizabethton Fire Department worked at the scene for three hours. They poured 500 pounds of absorbent material on the gasoline and used dikes to prevent gasoline runoff to nearby storm sewers.
   Two lanes of Elk Avenue were shut down as a precautionary measure.
   Neither driver was injured in the accident. Malone was charged with failure to yield with contact, according to Capt. Rusty Verran of the Elizabethton Police Department.
   Malone's car was damaged in the resulting fire.
   Tennessee and Carter County Emergency Management and Tennessee Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Agencies were notified of the accident, which occurred between the two entrances to Sycamore Shoals State Park.
   Emergency responses the past seven days has been enough to try most men's souls. On Monday, the Elizabethton Fire Department prevented gasoline from spilling into Doe River from an overturned vehicle at East Side.
   Next, the fire department responded twice to Pine Ridge Care Center after a clothes dryer caught fire and again when a vehicle plowed through the wall of the building into a patient's room.
   Following the tanker fire early Tuesday morning, Chief Shouse said "We've been extremely lucky the past seven days."
   The chief also credited the training of fire personnel for the predicted outcome. "Our firefighters have done an excellent job dealing with dangerous situations."