Overturned propane truck shuts down highway, residents evacuated

Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2002

GIRDWOOD (AP) -- Residents were evacuated and the Alyeska Highway closed for eight hours after a tanker truck carrying 780 gallons of propane tipped on its side, Alaska State Troopers said.

The only injury was to the driver of the Suburban Propane truck, 44-year-old Shelby Fagan of Anchorage. He was taken by ambulance to Providence Alaska Medical Center with shoulder injuries, said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

The accident occurred around 9:50 a.m. Wednesday, near Mile 1.6 of Alyeska Highway. Troopers believe Fagan took his eyes off the road and drifted to the right. The tanker careered down a 10- to 15-foot embankment and tipped onto the passenger side, blowing a valve that could not be capped.

The accident triggered a massive response, as authorities worried there might be an explosion. Electricity was shut off in parts of Girdwood and people living or working within a quarter mile of the accident were evacuated, Wilkinson said.

The road blockade left Anchorage School District officials scrambling to get kids home safely. About 40 students commute from Girdwood to Dimond High School, said School District spokeswoman Michelle Egan. Troopers had to escort some of the students to their houses.

Others made arrangements to stay at friends' houses with their parents' permission.

Girdwood School principal Jim Cox said about a dozen children at his school had to stay late because of the road closure.

The propane tank stopped leaking around 3:45 p.m., troopers said.

Authorities waited for the gas cloud to dissipate and then towed the vehicle away, Wilkinson said. Alyeska Highway reopened at 6:30 p.m.

It was not immediately known how many gallons of propane spilled, officials said.

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