Some blame speed as crews continue to clean up Laughlintown crash scene
By Kate Wilcox
Published: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Bill Buell, who has lived in Laughlintown for 87 years, has seen many accidents on that steep, winding section of Route 30, including a car that took down his daughter's house.
“There've been banana trucks, a truck full of turkeys that got loose, frozen food,” he said.
But he's never seen a syrup spill.
With the smell of sugary cherry drifting through the air, crews were still at work late Wednesday afternoon as they sopped up 23 barrels of fruit syrup that spilled out of an overturned tractor-trailer off Route 30 in Ligonier Township.
The rig rolled over around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and cleanup crews worked through the night and all day Wednesday to remove the sticky substance from the road.
The driver, who was alone, was flown to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. Officials did not release the driver's name, and his condition could not be determined on Wednesday.
The westbound rig was headed down the hill when the cab and trailer rolled over at least once, police said.
The cause of the accident is unknown, but many nearby residents blame speed for most of the accidents along that stretch of road.
“They all go too fast,” Buell said.
Lois McGinity, who owns Laughlintown Antique Mall at the bottom of the hill, said there are so many accidents that she has an escape plan.
“If I hear screeching brakes, I'm going to the back of the building,” she said.
There is a mandatory pull-off area atop the steep hill and two witnesses said the truck did not pull over at the stop, according to Dan Stevens, spokesman for the county Department of Emergency Management.
Tuesday night, crews placed sand on the road to absorb the syrup, then on Wednesday used a vacuum truck to get all the material off the road. They followed that with a power-washing, Stevens said.
PennDOT foreman Adam Krozel, who was out with a crew around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, said the road was designed to keep trucks traveling in either direction from crossing into another lane. The eastbound lane is raised and separated from the westbound with a median divider of rocks.
“It did serve its purpose,” Krozel said of the divider. “The truck didn't go into the oncoming lane, but some barrels did.”
The wreck, a few miles east of Laughlintown on Laurel Mountain near the Mountain Inn curve, closed the highway in both directions for about 24 hours.
“If they don't get as much of it (the syrup) off, when we get rain, it'll bring it to the surface and we'll have cars ice skating down the road in August,” Stevens said.
The insurance company for the trucking company, Newark-based Fast Track Transportation, is responsible for the clean-up bill, Stevens said. So far, the company has been responsive and cooperative, he said.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the company, which has about 15 trucks, has been cited several times in the past two years for requiring or permitting its drivers to drive more than 11 hours or after more than 14 hours on duty.
Wayne Yannone, president of Fast Track Transportation, said the company is looking into the cause of the crash, but that he didn't want to “get into” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration findings.
The truck was heading to City Brewing Company in Latrobe, Stevens said. The company produces beer, flavored malt beverages, teas and energy drinks, according to its website.
It was hauling “cherry lime rickey,” a cherry-lime syrup containing several juice concentrates. Twenty-three barrels spilled across the highway and more were stuck in the wreckage, authorities said.
Emergency personnel said they were concerned about washing away the syrup for fear it would leak into a nearby stream and damage its ecosystem.
Furnace Run, a recreational fishing stream, winds through the rural area down a hill about 100 yards from the crash site. Hosing down the road could have washed the syrup into the stream, and that could change its acidity level, officials said.
“Did some get in the stream? Absolutely,” Stevens said. “This stuff was hard to control.”
The clean-up crew built dams to prevent any further damage to the stream and laid down absorbent material.
Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or email@example.com.
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