SUMNER: Truck strikes overpass, closes state Route 167

A truck driver was seriously injured after his tractor-trailer struck the 24th Street East overpass on state Route 167 at around 5:30 p.m. Dec. 15.

The accident closed the highway to traffic for more than three hours.

According to officials at the scene, the truck had been traveling northbound on SR 167 when it swerved off the road, hit an embankment and crashed into the overpass at a high rate of speed.

The crash destroyed the cab and ripped open the cryogen tank the truck was hauling, spilling liquid and releasing a gas.

Units from East Pierce Fire and Rescue, Edgewood, Kent and Central Pierce Fire and Rescue responded to the incident. The lanes in both directions of the highway were closed as hazardous materials teams from East Pierce and Kent identified the contents of the truck’s container.

Placards identifying the liquid in the container were destroyed in the crash.

“Damage to the truck and container was catastrophic,” said East Pierce Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Zane Gibson.

Gibson said, as a precaution, a quarter-mile area was evacuated around the incident.

Initially, hazardous materials teams identified the contents as liquid nitrogen, but later learned the container was filled with liquid carbon dioxide. Liquid carbon dioxide is released into the air as a nonflammable, colorless, odorless gas that can be dangerous in high concentrations, but dissipates quickly in the open air.

“Both present the same hazard if spilled and are mitigated the same way,” Gibson said.

The Pierce County Hazmat Team, consisting of specially-trained firefighters from East Pierce, Graham, Lakewood, Gig Harbor and Central Pierce, also responded.

East Pierce crews transported the driver to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with life-threatening injuries.

Two occupants of a sedan also involved in the crash were not hurt.

Southbound lanes of SR 167 were opened by 9 p.m. followed soon after by the northbound lanes. Traffic over the bridge has been prohibited while state Department of Transportation engineers assess the damage.

Washington State Patrol investigated the cause of the crash.

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