HAZEL — Disaster was avoided Wednesday morning when a semi tractor trailer carrying mining explosives overturned and crashed into a ditch along U.S. 641 South between Hazel and Midway.
Calloway County Chief Deputy Sheriff Nicky Knight said the truck was headed north on 641 South at about 5:40 a.m. Wednesday when it left the roadway near the intersection of Jobe Lane, about two miles north of Hazel. The truck also struck a three-phase telephone pole connected to three power transformers that Calloway County Fire-Rescue Chief Tommy Morgan said produced sparks after the trailer came to rest against it.
Those arcs did not start a fire, though, preventing the situation from perhaps becoming much worse.
“What we were told was that if a fire had occurred to just leave. It would’ve been impossible to fight it,” Morgan said. “Now, what would that have meant, exactly? I’m still not sure. Would it have gone ‘boom!’? Or would it have just been a very intense fire that would’ve burned really hot that we would’ve had to have waited out? We still don’t know.
“I’m just glad we didn’t have to find out.”
Calloway County Emergency Management Director Bill Call said the truck is from Accurate Energetic Systems of McEwen, Tennessee and was carrying 34,212 pounds of the material in the trailer, the rear of which was split open in the crash, meaning that had the transformer ignited, it would have had little trouble reaching the contents.
“The good part is that this particular explosive is considered to be a low-sensitivity explosive. Yes, it is an explosive and it is strong, but it takes a lot to set it off. Still, from what we were told, with fire, the situation would’ve changed and become much more serious at that point,” Call said, noting that blasting caps and primer cord, both keys to creating the proper ingredients to activate the explosive, are not included when this material is being transferred by truck.
Calloway County Sheriff Sam Steger said evidence at the scene shows that the truck took a familiar path for wrecks on this road. He said the right-side tires left the road, causing the driver, identified as Grady Richardson of Linden, Tennessee, to lose control. Eventually, Steger said the rig veered across the center line into the southbound lane of the two-lane highway before coming back to the northbound lane and falling into a ravine.
Knight said the destination of the rig is not known.
“I’ve seen a number of these over the years, and it’s the same thing. If you drop off the side of this road, it’s just going to pull you in. You won’t be able to gain control,” Steger said of how the stretch of highway where Wednesday’s crash occurred has narrow shoulders on the sides. “There’s really not one where this happened.
“There is a little curve you take to the south of here and that might could’ve caused something, but, to me, this is another example of why we need this road to be four-laned. There is going to be a lot more of a shoulder on a four lane and you probably won’t have this type of accident happening on a road like that. It is possible, I guess, but the truck would have to be way off the road.”
U.S. 641 South is expected to be widened in the coming years and Steger has been a strong advocate for that for quite some time.
“Look at what we have here today! You have a road traveled every day by what I consider to be an extensive amount of traffic and now it’s completely closed. This is one of the main roads of this area. In fact, it is the main road between Murray and Paris and it’s going to be closed just about all day,” he said. “If nothing else, with a four lane, you could at least keep traffic going. The way it is now, there’s no way.”
This incident also involved crews from West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation which was tasked with the duty of restoring power to a number of customers, including nearly all of Hazel. WKRECC Communications & Media Relations Coordinator Georgann Lookofsky said, at the peak of the outage, 740 customers in southern Calloway County were without power.
Within three hours, though, that was down to 18.
“We started implementing alternative power supplies in order to get people who were outside the impact area back on,” Lookofsky said. “This included installing temporary wiring, and that allowed us to get most of our customers handled fairly quickly, but we weren’t able to get near the customers closest to the wreck because the conditions were just too dangerous, so we had to wait for that to be cleared.
“Once we were allowed into the area, we had to turn off the power to the other customers we had restored power to earlier, but that only lasted about an hour or so.”
The road was reopened at about 3:20 p.m. after crews had managed to move the rig to an area that would not impede traffic.