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SEYMOUR — A tanker hauling anhydrous ammonia rolled onto its side while making a turn, but no gas leaked and no one was seriously injured.
The accident occurred about 7:25 a.m. Thursday as the tanker turned from Tipton Street onto Agrico Lane. It was on its way to The Andersons Inc. in Seymour.
None of the dangerous, pressurized gas leaked, and the driver was not seriously injured, Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said at the scene.
Although no immediate evacuation was needed, Applebee’s, Steak ’n Shake, Staples and Duke Energy were closed along with all lanes of Tipton Street and Meadowbrook Drive when cleanup workers attempted to transfer the gas into another tanker, Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas said.
Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas used as a nutrient in farm fields, as a building block in fertilizers and pharmaceuticals and in cleaners.
Wischmeier Trucking of rural Seymour, owner of the tanker, planned to transfer half the anhydrous ammonia into another tanker and then upright the wrecked tanker.
That transfer didn’t happen, so a greater evacuation area was called for, Lucas said. That included closing businesses in nearby Village Center Shopping Center and 84 Lumber.
Officials also alerted Pet Supplies Plus and Seymour-Redding Elementary School to keep everyone inside their buildings while the tanker was uprighted, Lucas said.
Pets Supplies Plus and the school were notified because the wind speed and direction at time could have sent a cloud of leaking gas in that direction, Lucas said.
“They were not able to transfer any of the product because of the way it was lying and the way the valve system worked,” Lucas said. “Instead, they uprighted it full of product.”
That happened at noon, and traffic was reopened by 12:10 p.m.
Only a small amount of the estimated 8,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia escaped when workers hooked hoses to tanker fittings as they attempted to transfer the gas, Lucas said.
No one was hurt during the cleanup.
Police blocked all Tipton Street, Agrico Lane north of Tipton and Meadowbrook Drive as a safety precaution.
That’s one of the city’s busiest intersections, with traffic flowing from Walmart and Home Depot parking lots onto those streets.
The truck driver, Donnell Mathena, 30, Freetown, was unharmed except for what Abbott described as a minor cut.
Mathena, an employee with Tampico-based Wischmeier Trucking, said he was unsure what happened.
“I was turning, and it just flipped over,” he said at the scene.
Mathena was turning from westbound Tipton Street north onto Agrico Lane when the mishap occurred.
A witness reported to police seeing the tanker shake before it rolled over, Abbott said.
“The gas inside may have sloshed and tipped it over during the turn,” Abbott said. Under pressure in the tanker, anhydrous ammonia is a liquid. It vaporizes once it escapes that pressure and hits the air.
Anhydrous ammonia is used in making one product at The Andersons Seymour plant, a corn starter fertilizer, according to Debbie Crow of its corporate communications office in Ohio.
“Last year, we had 44 tankers come in with that product,” Crow said. That equals 875 tons of anhydrous ammonia.
“(That fertilizer is) made year-round, so the shipments (of anhydrous ammonia) are brought in pretty much throughout the year,” she said. “When we make this product, in the mixing process (the anhydrous ammonia) is converted from a hazardous to nonhazardous product.”
Mathena said the anhydrous ammonia in the rolled tanker was hauled in from Frankfort, in north-central Indiana.
The wrecked tanker was towed to The Andersons.
The situation could have been much worse had the tanker ripped apart as it rolled over, Lucas said.
“If you’re very close to it and it’s not diluted, it could kill you,” Lucas said. “We were very fortunate. The workers from 31 Wrecker and Wischmeier Trucking did a good job and everything stayed together.”
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