Sticky and stuck

Overturned tanker ties up interchange, injures driver


Herald Writers

EVERETT — An overturned tanker truck on a major I-5 offramp caused a freeway traffic snarl most of Friday after it laid down a sticky mess of hot asphalt oil used for building roads.

About 2,500 gallons of the goo spread across the road in the noon accident, sending firefighters and state workers scrambling to keep it out of a nearby creek, which eventually drains into the Snohomish River.

It appears the waterways were spared damage, but the driver of the truck and drivers along I-5 weren’t.

The day’s events started at about 11:50 a.m. when Dennis C. Jennerjohn, 58, of Oak Harbor, was headed south on I-5 in his tractor trailer, hauling two tankers behind him for Daniels Trucking of Mountlake Terrace.

Jennerjohn got off exit 189 to head onto Highway 526, the Boeing freeway, just north of the Everett Mall. He was on his way to Evergreen Way to make a delivery, said State Patrol trooper Lance Ramsay.

When Jennerjohn got to the offramp’s curve, just east of the Broadway overpass, he lost control, the truck flipped on its side and hit a guardrail.

"It’s undetermined right now whether speed is a part of the crash," Ramsay said.

The lead tank ruptured, Ramsay said, spilling the emulsion-like road asphalt.

Dale Dodrill, a state Department of Transportation foreman of the cleanup crew, verified with a company owner that the tanker contained road asphalt.

Jennerjohn suffered possible broken ribs as well as second-degree burns on his left side and more burns on the back of his head from the hot oil. He was in satisfactory condition Friday night at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The material was liquid and hot when it first spilled, cooling quickly to leave a hardened, slick black coating on the ramp. The offramp remained closed all day and into the night. It was expected to reopen early this morning as cleanup crews scrape a path through the solidified gunk with a grinder.

Drivers will likely see traffic cones up today straddling a narrow, bumpy lane as workers continue scraping away the asphalt from the sides.

Next week the state hopes to fix the damage by repaving the pavement that was damaged by the pavement-building material.

Traffic Friday on southbound I-5 backed up for miles north of the accident as drivers who wanted to turn onto 526 to Mukilteo were forced to continue south, Ramsay said.

Everett Fire Department crews were on the scene first, attempting to stem the tide of cooling oil in drains. Firefighters used absorbent pads and sand to make small dams in the drainage channel. State crews later brought in trucks full of sand to make larger dams and to keep petroleum residue out of the drains during Friday afternoon’s rain.

The state Department of Ecology dispatched crews to check whether any of the spilled material had reached nearby Woods Creek or the Snohomish River. Dick Walker, an Ecology spokesman, said some oil did get into the storm-drain system, but it hardened before it got in the water.

It’s not the first time this year that corner has been the scene of a wreck.

A 59-year-old Mukilteo man crashed his Harley Davidson motorcycle July 9 when he slammed into a concrete wall while making the turn. He later died at Harborview Medical Center.

In August, a tractor-trailer failed to make the corner and overturned, spilling bales of cardboard. No one was hurt.

Everett Fire Department Battalion Chief Ed Oas said he’s amazed there aren’t more accidents at the corner.

"It’s easy to go into that corner and not realize you need to slow down until it’s too late," he said. "People see that 40 mph sign and think, ‘Oh, I can get away with 50 or 55.’ And they can’t."

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