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Driver dies in I-91 tanker truck rollover

  • A tanker truck roll over with a fluid spill caused local and state police to close off sections of Interstate 91, and consider the possibility of evacuating residents near the scene, early Wednesday afternoon. RECORDER STAFF

  • A tanker truck overturned on Route 91 north around noon on Wednesday, just before the parking area and Exit 24, closing both north and southbound lanes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A foam truck from Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee arrives to scene of a tanker truck overturned on Route 91 north around noon on Wednesday, just before the parking area and Exit 24, that closed both north and southbound lanes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Emergency workers respond to a tanker truck that overturned on Interstate 91 North around noon on Wednesday, just before the parking area and Exit 24. The crash closed both north and southbound lanes of the highway. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A tanker truck overturned on Route 91 north around noon on Wednesday, just before the parking area and Exit 24, closing both north and southbound lanes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A tanker truck overturned on Route 91 north around noon on Wednesday, just before the parking area and Exit 24, closing both north and southbound lanes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A foam truck from Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee sprays foam on a tanker truck that overturned on Route 91 north around noon on Wednesday, just before the parking area and Exit 24, that closed both north and southbound lanes. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 21, 2018

WHATELY — The driver of a tanker truck died following a rollover crash on Interstate 91, state police announced Wednesday night.

Police did not immediately release the driver’s identity in order to leave time for family notification.

The truck, which was carrying gasoline, rolled over around noon on I-91 North, just past the Christian Lane overpass. The crash led to the closure of the highway and a precautionary evacuation of the elementary school.

All traffic was diverted onto Route 5 & 10, which was heavily congested as a result. The interstate headed northbound is expected to remain closed around Whately indefinitely, police said, but the southbound lane was opened around 10:20 p.m. The northbound lane traffic may still be rerouted this morning, depending on the timeline of the state police investigation.

The driver of the Brown Bear Transportation truck was pronounced deceased on the scene.

A company representative, reached before police said the driver was deceased, declined to comment. Brown Bear Transportation is a part of Roberts Energy of Springfield, which supplies motor fuels, heating fuels and lubricants to commercial clients.

The crash took place in the northbound right lane. Traffic was limited to one lane because of construction and had been closed for several miles when the incident occurred.

Emergency personnel found the truck had skirted off the road, toward the shoulder and eventually rolled over on the slope. Fuel was leaking from the truck, Whately Police said while near the scene. Massachusetts State Police is investigating the crash, along with troopers assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

First responders initially considered evacuating residents living near the crash site. As a precaution, students and staff at the Whately Elementary School were taken to Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield, according to Deerfield Police.

Within a half hour of the accident, traffic was being re-routed off I-91, pushing a majority of vehicles onto 5 & 10. Drivers could get back on I-91 northbound at Exit 25 in Deerfield, or southbound in Hatfield. Both ways remained closed to the public as fire departments worked through the afternoon.

Called in were foam trucks from the Westover Air Reserve Base and from the Orange Fire Department. The Westover truck sprayed foam over the tanker around 1 p.m. as a state police helicopter circled over the highway.

Fire departments from across the region lined up along the entry point to the highway near Tom’s Hot Dogs. A command center was set up on the rest area off the shoulder on I-91 in Deerfield.

Trains on nearby tracks were held up most of the afternoon. Passengers coming north on the Vermonter saw the service end at Springfield, from where Amtrak was to provide buses for customers up to St. Albans, Vt., the end of the line, a representative from Amtrak said. Today, the Vermonter passenger rail service will be modified similarly, with buses provided from St. Albans to Springfield, and with the train leaving from there.

Whately Police reported three additional crashes and a report of road rage as a result of this accident, calling them “unnecessary incidents that took away resources from a very serious and hazardous event” and put added risk on first responders because of the “lack of patience” of some drivers.

“Please slow down, and exercise a little caution when you are stuck in traffic,” Whately Police said in a Facebook post Wednesday night. “Remember your actions have consequences.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264