Local law enforcement handles tanker spill

Published 2:08 pm Monday, May 23, 2011

Local law enforcement officers earned their pay on May 20 after a tanker turned over, causing both lanes of I-65 to be closed for hours.

The tanker, carrying 8,000 pounds of diesel fuel, turned over in the median while traveling northbound. The wreck, which happened near the 217-mile marker, closed both lanes and caused traffic to be rerouted, mainly along U.S. 31.

From there, it was up to local police forces to direct traffic and handle the ensuing flood of cars.

“For us, it meant five additional wrecks,” said Thorsby Police Chief Rodney Barnett. “We average about three to five wrecks a month, and we had five in one day.”

“It’s been a long time since we had anything like it,” said Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer. “The worst part was that it was Friday afternoon during rush hour.”

Once the flow of traffic made it to Highway 31, the main focus was to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.

“We worked from around 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.,” said Clanton Police Deputy Chief Keith Maddox. “[It lasted] about eight hours, and we went through two shifts. It was sort of like trying to pour a gallon of water in a quart container.”

“We had seven officers, including utilized reserve officers that worked from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.,” said Fulmer. “Those guys did a great job.”

And while traffic was backed up for an extremely long amount of time, reports of road rage and flaring tempers were limited. According to reports, one driver got mad at another driver for a perceived bump and threw a bottle in retaliation in Thorsby.

There were also reports of abandoned vehicles across the county and along I-65. Thorsby also had the most reports of abandoned vehicles.

“There were two or three cars that appeared to have run out of gas,” said Barnett. “They were off the road in the grass, but they appeared to have had some kind of problem.”

After things finally got rolling smoothly again, all of the chiefs agreed the situation turned out well, all things considered. They also were quick to praise their officers for their efforts.

“I feel our guys did an outstanding job, especially considering the situation,” said Maddox. “I’m really proud of them.”

“[Our officers] were immediately in position,” said Fulmer. “They did a great job of getting things done.”