Wreck Leads to Propane Spill, Evacuations
LITTLETON – Robert Bissett was at his grandmother’s house last week when he heard a loud noise that shook the home.
West Virginia State Police said the driver of a propane truck lost control of the vehicle near the U.S. 250 intersection with Long Drain Road near Littleton Thursday morning.
“I heard the crash,” Bissett said. “Her trailer shook and everything. It sounded like a train had wrecked. I didn’t know what was happening. I was stunned when I went outside – the tractor trailer was right there in the yard. I was nervous.”
West Virginia State Police First Sgt. James Stout said a small amount of propane was leaking from the truck, although he did not believe this would impact any water sources. Hazmat officials responded to mitigate the spill.
Ed Sapp, director of Wetzel County Emergency Management and 911, said the tanker’s leak was plugged and sealed before it was transported for repairs to Martins Ferry, Ohio.
Emergency officials evacuated an undetermined number of area residents as a precaution until Sunday, Sapp said. Littleton boasts a population of about 200 people according to U.S. Census data. Electricity was also shut off as a precaution, but restored Friday morning. People with furnaces were advised to turn off their pilot lights or anything that might create a spark.
“That put a damper on a lot of people’s plans,” Bissett said. “We’ve had to depend on other family to survive and have a place to stay for the last couple of days.”
Jonathan St. John of Littleton said his family was among those evacuated.
“They went door-to-door to tell people to leave because the truck was leaking propane,” he said. “They evacuated the whole town maybe a half mile around from the crash. They told us we had to leave.”
Bissett said he initially went to his cousin Sara Tedrow’s house about 100 yards away from the crash site on Railroad Street. That area was evacuated later, so some residents went to the Hundred Senior Center. Bissett is the father of an 8-year-old daughter and 15-month-old son.
“The second time we were evacuated to the Senior Center in Hundred, but that closed Friday afternoon so we had to find some place else to stay. We ended up staying with family nearby. I hope we can return home, but we’ll see,” Bissett said Saturday afternoon. “We’ve had to depend of family for a place to stay.”
Bissett said his grandmother, Juanita, was especially affected by the crash in her yard.
“She’s OK, but not happy about what happened,” he said. “Her health conditions require her to have oxygen, so having a tanker crash in her yard was not the best thing for her that day.”
Stout said officials transported the driver of the propane truck, an Illinois resident, to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown for unspecified injuries. No other vehicles or people were involved in the accident.
Stout was uncertain of the truck’s destination.
St. John said many trucks ignore the town’s speed limit. Many days, motorists hit a telephone pole in his front yard, he said.
“A lot of trucks with out-of-state plates they just fly through here all the time,” he said. “Even though the speed limit is 25 mph no one slows down. We have a wall by our house, but a lot people don’t have a wall by their road so they are more at risk when these sort of things happen.”
There are spots along Route 250 that do not offer motorists a lot of visibility or space to maneuver.
“Highway 250 is not wide enough for cars to pass let alone two trucks to pass each other,” St. John said.
Reports of accidents involving large trucks related to the Marcellus and Utica shale industry continue as a water truck wrecked last week in Marshall County.
Still another tanker truck leaving a Utica Shale drilling site on McClainesville Road near Bellaire spilled 20 gallons of hydrochloric acid Saturday night.
Late last year, on Nov. 27, there was a fatal traffic accident involving a tanker truck on Route 20 near Porters Falls.
According to the police report, a tanker truck, operated by Calvin Eaton of Wellsburg, went off the right side of the road for an unknown reason.
The vehicle then came back onto the right side of the road but then crossed the center of the road, striking a 2014 Jeep Wrangler coming from the opposite direction.
Marty Heltsley, 61, died as a result of the accident, according to the Wetzel County Prosecutor’s Office.
Eaten, who was allegedly on the job at the time of the accident, was found to have a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. He was charged with driving under the influence, with death, in a fatal vehicle accident, according to the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Department.
Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught said Eaton waived his right to a preliminary hearing.