A semitrailer carrying about 6,800 gallons of hot asphalt rolled over and crashed on Everson Goshen Road early Thursday, spilling about two-thirds of its load and closing the busy highway in both directions near Everson Elementary School, authorities said.
Impact of the crash tore the truck’s cab apart, shearing its roof as it came to rest on the driver’s side door. The driver, Kellen Botten, 27, was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph hospital for treatment of minor injuries suffered in the 4:44 a.m. crash, said Everson Police Chief Dan McPhee.
McPhee said Botten cut the back of his head. Botten was cited for negligent driving.
Neighbors who heard the wreck pulled Botten from the cab, said nearby resident Amber Encinias.
Both the 40-foot main trailer and a 20-foot “pup” trailer were damaged and the tarry substance oozed onto the side of the road and into the yards of neighboring homes, said Chief Mel Blankers of Whatcom County Fire District 1.
Blankers said one member of Whatcom County’s hazmat team, known as the Specialized Emergency Response Program unit, examined the scene and decided that no special precautions were necessary. Blankers said no one reported breathing difficulties and that officials from the state Department of Ecology were at the scene to monitor conditions.
“It just smells like a freshly paved road,” Blankers said, adding the spilled material stopped spreading and congealed as it cooled to outside air temperature.
“It’s a tarry substance,” Blankers said. “It’s sticky. It’s not continuing to run and flow, but it’s going to take a while to get it cleaned up.”
McPhee said the truck was registered to Washington Trucking of Arlington and it was headed to a job site in British Columbia. McPhee said Botten was speeding as he entered the first of two curves that jog north and east toward Everson.
Speed limit on that stretch of road slows from 50 mph to 40 mph and then to 35 mph, McPhee said, adding he was unsure how the truck and cab landed on the driver’s side when logic would indicate a roll to the right, or passenger side. The pup trailer remained upright, but it was damaged and leaked some of its load, too.
A state Department of Transportation official said the road, which is part of state Highway 544, would be closed in both directions for at least all of Thursday. Everson Public Works crews blocked the road and set directional signs for a detour at Robinson Street and at Kale Street, McPhee said.
Highway 544 has several local designations, including Pole Road, Everson Goshen Road, Mead Avenue and Kale Road, but it is the main east-west route through Everson and Nooksack.
School bus drivers were able to reach most of the students on their routes in the affected area, said Sharilyn Peters, spokeswoman for Nooksack Valley School District’s transportation department. School started on time at Everson Elementary.