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HWY 20 wreck prompts haz-mat response

An unusual accident led to a full-scale hazardous materials response in Oak Harbor Tuesday afternoon.

State Trooper Joshua Lancaster said 87-year-old Frances Schultz of Oak Harbor was driving a 1998 Mercury Marquis southbound on Highway 20 and turned right onto Ault Field Road. She ran over grease tubes that had fallen out of another vehicle and had been smashed by cars.

“There was a grease coating and globs of grease on the roadway,” Lancaster said.

The car slid on the slick roadway and headed off the road. Schultz overcorrected and struck the 100-gallon fuel tank of an oncoming 2000 International semi truck driven by 48-year-old Allen William of Ferndale.

Nobody was injured.

“There was fuel everywhere,” the trooper said. “It was a big haz-mat response.”

The State Patrol, the Navy’s emergency response team, the Department of Transportation, the Island County Sheriff’s Office, Navy security, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue and the county road shop all responded to the scene.

Sheldon Stremler, the road shop supervisor for North Whidbey, said crews put down Speedy Dry — basically kitty litter — peat moss and absorbent pads.

“We cleaned Oak Harbor stores out of Speedy Dry,” he said.

They also laid down special tubes to dam up the diesel, but some of it got into the soil on the edges of the road. Stremler said they hauled away a couple of dump trucks loads of the dirt, which will have to be tested and disposed of properly.

Stremler said diesel isn’t as dangerous as gasoline, but it takes a lot longer to evaporate.

According to Lancaster, neither driver was at fault in the accident. The culpable person was whoever dropped the box of grease tubes, but troopers have been unable to find the responsible person.

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