Tons of aluminum lie beneath the surface of this water-filled ditch in Ferndale
The area where a semi-truck carrying 23 tons of aluminum ingots rolled over near Ferndale will remain closed for cleanup, Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks said Wednesday.
The crash at Hovander and West Smith roads was reported at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Up to 100 gallons of diesel may have spilled as well.
The semi-truck was hauling a load of aluminum bars on a 40-foot flatbed trailer and was on its way to Alcoa Intalco Works, according to new details of the crash provided by Parks.
Parks said an inexperienced driver — he had just received his commercial driver's license — from out of state was at the wheel. He was using a mapping program to find his way to the aluminum smelter because he wasn't familiar with the area.
The semi was headed west on West Smith Road, when it came to a sharp curve onto Hovander Road. The driver said he didn't move into the oncoming lane to make room for the turn because traffic was there.
Because he didn't, the trailer's right rear tires went off the road's shoulder and sank into mud until the trailer was pulled into a ditch filled with water.
The load's weight — a total of about 48,000 pounds — caused the trailer to roll over onto its top, Parks said, eventually causing the truck to flip until it was upside down and partially submerged in water.
Up to 100 gallons of diesel from the semi may have leaked into the watery ditch, which is adjacent to wetlands. Washington State Department of Ecology responded to that fuel spill.
"Once the immediate risk associated with the spill was contained, commercial tow trucks worked to remove the submerged truck and trailer," Parks said. "In order to remove the trailer, the load had to be cut free."
That section of road is closed while a commercial spill response team cleans up the diesel and arrangements are made to remove the six aluminum bars — estimated at 7,800 pounds each — that are in the water. That's about 23 tons, or the weight of 23 small cars.
The road's shoulder also will have to be repaired, Parks added.
The semi's driver was ticketed for “driving with wheels off roadway.” He wasn't hurt in the rollover.
The driver's training partner, who was in the truck's sleeper compartment at the time of the incident, said his wrist hurt but he didn't want medical aid.