LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) – An accident that caused a tractor-trailer and two nearby vehicles to catch fire caused a mess for crews to clean up on Interstate 80 in Liberty.
Highway Patrol said all lanes of Interstate 80 have reopened, as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
The accident happened just after 6 a.m. on I-80 at mile marker 229.
Mark Cosgrove of Masury was traveling eastbound on I-80 in a tractor-trailer when he drove off the right side of road. Unable to get back on, the semi rolled over and caught fire.
Liberty Fire Chief Gus Birch said the fire started in a challenging location for his crews.
“First of all, due to the construction, we were unable to get to it. Our trucks were actually down by 422 in Girard,” he said.
Randy Walters was on his way to work when he saw the tractor trailer on its side, starting to catch fire. He immediately jumped into action, along with another driver.
Walters ran over to the ditch to help get Cosgrove out of his cab, and luckily, he had only minor injuries.
“Didn’t look too bad. He was struggling to get out of the ditch and that’s about all I helped him with. I just wanted to make sure there was nobody else in there,” he said.
Once the driver got out, that’s when he told Walters there were over 8,000 gallons of gas inside the trailer. They immediately ran as far away as possible.
Walters was not injured but he said his car is totaled after it caught fire, along with another vehicle nearby.
Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers, local police and the Ohio Department of Transportation quickly shut down the interstate as well as highways leading into the area, allowing firefighters from nearly a dozen departments to get to the scene, carrying water and chemical foam to dowse the flames.
But just when crews thought they had things under control, the fire re-started.
“When the guys were spraying down the frame of the truck, it made the foam go away and exposed it again and reignited,” said Chief Birch.
By 10:30 a.m., the fire was finally out, but it burned two trucks and a car left behind. Troopers say no one was badly hurt, and they’re crediting neighboring police departments with keeping motorists safely away from the scene.
Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Brian Holt said construction in the area has led to an increased number of crashes.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had any very, very serious-injury crashes, but we are here a lot because of those crashes,” he said.
Later Thursday night, another semi rolled over near mile marker 237 in Hubbard Township.
The majority of gasoline burned at the scene, and Trumbull County HAZMAT contained the rest.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was out at Little Squaw Creek, just a quarter of a mile away from the crash scene, to make sure foam used to put out the fire and oil didn’t run into the creek. Crews built a dam to stop its spread.
Birch said the aqueous film forming foam is used for flammable liquid fires, but it has a drawback.
“The foam is actually environmentally not safe, from what the Airbase guys were telling me when they brought the crash truck. The purpose of building the dam is so we can contain it to one area,” he said.
The Ohio EPA said the dam will hold back the foam run-off to alleviate releases of water, foam and gas into the ditches and storm drains which eventually discharge to the Mahoning River. A sheen on the river has not been detected, indicating gas has not made it to the river.
The other concern was the road. The heat from the accident did some major damage.
The damaged section will have to be milled, and a new layer of asphalt will be placed on top of it.