Workers tackle cleanup after tanker truck transporting oxygen overturns

tanker overturns with liquid oxygen

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - There were some very nervous hours in one East Texas city as an 18-wheeler overturned on a busy road, leaving a tank of liquid oxygen overturned.

It happened around 11 Wednesday morning at 5300 Loop 281, as the truck was pulling into Air Liquid America corporation. The roadway was shut down until 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Investigators say the driver misjudged his turn into an entrance way.

"The tractor-trailer attempted to make a right hand turn and d ropped his axle into the culvert, causing it to turn over. It's a fully-loaded tanker," said Longview police Lt. Shane McCarter.

The tanker was carrying four thousand pounds of liquid oxygen, not only flammable, but also cryogenic if it leaks. That means it will freeze anything it comes in contact with.

The plan was to transfer the liquid to another truck.

But a potentially hazardous problem arose as they prepared to drain the liquid oxygen: a natural gas pipeline is buried nearby.The fear was a leak might get into the ground, freeze the line, and break it.

"We've got the gas line underground, we've got utilities running overhead. You run the risk of it getting into the atmosphere, and then it can actually burn your skin if you come in contact with it. This could be a 3 to 5 hour operation to make sure it's done safely," says Longview Fire Marshal Kevin May.

Though it might be inconvenient for drivers, the slow process is to make sure nothing goes wrong.

"Once they start off-loading the product, we'll have to move our perimeter back about 400 feet to keep everybody safe," May says.

Representatives from the company are on the scene along with Longview emergency crews, supervising the transfer of the liquid oxygen.

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