Tractor-trailer crash on Del. 1 snarls traffic in the Smyrna-Middletown area

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Emergency Prevention and Response Team worked on a “containment and cleanup operation” involving an overturned tractor-trailer tanker on Del. 1 Wednesday carrying approximately 8,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline.

TOWNSEND — A 56-year-old truck driver from New Jersey was seriously injured and traffic detoured for hours after a two-vehicle crash Wednesday morning on Del. 1 in southern New Castle County.

Officials said Del. 1 between Exit 119 (North Smyrna) and Del. 299 (Middletown/Odessa) would remain at least partially closed for up to 10 hours as authorities responded to a tractor trailer’s crash after it swerved to miss a van that crossed the highway at approximately 8:20 a.m. near Townsend.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Emergency Prevention and Response Team worked on a “containment and cleanup operation” involving an overturned tractor-trailer tanker carrying approximately 8,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline, authorities said.

The sequence began as Musikami F. Bishogo, 55, of Dover, was driving a 2000 Chevrolet Express van towing a loaded car dolly northbound when the vehicle experienced a right-rear tire blowout in the area of New Discovery Road, according to Delaware State Police.

Investigators believe the van crossed the grassy center median after the blowout and traveled into the southbound lanes and into the tanker. The tanker’s driver attempted to avoid the van, police said, but the tractor-trailer jack-knifed and rolled over.

The tanker came to rest off the west side of Del. 1, police said, with part of the truck situated partially down a grass embankment.

Due to the tanker’s damage, an unknown quantity of the fuel it was hauling was released, police said. DelDOT said gasoline leaked into ditches on both sides of the highway. Authorities said some of the gasoline was being pumped out for safety.

The tractor-trailer driver, from Vineland, suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to Christiana Hospital by Delaware State Police helicopter Trooper 4. He was initially removed from the truck by passers-by, the Delaware Fire School said.

Mr. Bishogo was ticketed for operating an unsafe motor vehicle, operation of an unregistered motor vehicle and failure to have insurance identification in possession.

At 4 p.m., authorities said, a First State towing truck was removing the tanker. Officials estimated Del. 1 northbound would be opened by 4:30 p.m. without any setbacks. Southbound lanes were scheduled for opening about 6:30 p.m. once all debris was cleared, authorities said.

DelDOT said signal timing adjustments were made to assist traffic on U.S. 13, where drivers were re-routed to.

DelDOT said lane restrictions may be in effect the next few days as the cleanup continues.

A Delaware Fire School spokesman said “foam was applied to suppress the vapors from the gasoline to limit the chance of ignition.”

Steps were taken to preserve the local watershed, Tucker Dempsey said.

Responding agencies

Townsend Fire Company Chief Rick Clark Jr. operated as the incident commander.

State agencies responding included Natural Resources and Environmental Control (hazardous materials mitigation), Police, Fire School and Emergency Management Agency. New Castle County Emergency Management, Paramedics and Emergency Communications (mobile command post) also assisted.

The Delaware City Refinery supplied foam and technical expertise, while Saint Francis Hospital of Wilmington provided a scene rehabilitation unit for emergency worker hydration, nutrition and rest. First State Towing also supported the efforts.

Other fire companies responded from Middletown, Odessa, Port Penn, Smyrna, Clayton, Delaware City, Leipsic, Hartly, Marydel, Camden-Wyoming, Cecilton, Maryland, and Belvedere (Hazardous Materials Containment Unit), along with the American Legion Ambulance from Smyrna.

Other companies in Delaware and Maryland were mobilized “to cover depleted areas in case of other emergencies,” Mr. Dempsey said.

At 11:30 a.m., the State Police responded to an overturned propane truck crash south of Frankford. The roadway was cleaned up and cleared by mid-afternoon, DelDOT said.

Undisclosed injuries were reported in the crash just south of Lazy Lagoon Road on Pepper Road.

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