Spill snarls traffic

A tanker truck overturned Wednesday at the intersection of U.S. 60 and State Street in Texico, spilling gas and diesel fuel. The driver was treated and released from the Plains Regional Medical Center. CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

About a dozen homes and businesses had to be evacuated and vehicular and train traffic curtailed Wednesday morning in Texico after a tractor-trailer overturned and spilled about 6,000 gallons of fuel, officials said.

The tanker carrying gasoline and diesel fuel rolled over about 8 a.m. at U.S. 60 and State Street, officials said.

New Mexico State Police Lt. Rick Anglada identified the truck driver as Benny Sena, 31, of Amarillo. He was treated and released from Plains Regional Medical Center with minor bruises and scrapes, Anglada said.

Officials reported no other injuries.

Sena will be cited for reckless driving, driving over hours and log book violations, Anglada said. Sena may have fallen asleep at the wheel and was traveling too fast when he approached a curve in the road, Anglada said.

“It was very fortunate no one was injured by either the crash or the hazardous material spill,” Anglada said.

Portions of U.S. 60 and 60/84 were closed for several hours, according to Texico Police Chief John Mares and traffic was rerouted. Train traffic was also shut down for about three hours, he said.

“We had a tremendous amount of people out here, which really was great,” Mares said. “Everything was under control in 30 minutes or so.”

Capt. Karen Burns of the Clovis Fire Department said the quantity and type of chemical made the situation severe.

“When you’re looking at a tanker turned over, we figure this: it’s a pretty severe case,” she said.

By 5 p.m., the truck had been righted and its fuel load transferred to another truck on its way to Amarillo, according to officials. Responders were still working, putting substances into the drainage system near the spill to reduce the flammability of any residual fuels, and using a suction machine to remove the chemicals from the surface of the roadway, Burns said, likening the process to vacuuming.
The material will be transported from the scene and disposed of in an appropriate way for its nature, she said.

Initial responders followed hazardous material guidelines to establish a 1,000-foot perimeter around the scene, stopping all nearby traffic including trains for approximately three hours.

A combination of environmental, law enforcement, and fire and rescue personnel from local, state and county — 18 agencies in all — converged on the scene throughout the day, Burns said.