Trucker’s quick thinking helps to avoid calamity

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 30, 2007

A Hammond, La., truck driver said it’s only by the grace of Godthat more damage wasn’t done when his rig caught on fire just northof exit 42 on Interstate 55 Friday afternoon.

“The good Lord smiled on me,” said Charlie Pearson Jr., who wasdriving a load of anhydrous ammonia for Tanner Industries when amalfunction caused the truck he was driving to catch on fire.

“It was the turbocharger on the engine. It set the internalengine on fire,” he said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

As for his quick thinking in getting his rig detached from thetrailer, he said it was God, but there was also another factor.

“Blinding, mind-numbing fear,” said Pearson, whose reactionavoided a potential hazmat situation.

The Brookhaven Fire Department, some volunteer fire departments,Brookhaven Police Department, and the Mississippi Highway Patrolwere all on the scene to assist

Pearson, who drives for Tanner Industries out of Louisiana, saidthe company regularly hauls anhydrous ammonia, which is not aflammable gas, but meets the definition of a toxic material andrequires a hazardous safety permit when transported in quantitiesgreater than 3,500 gallons.

For that reason, said Brookhaven Firefighter Stanley Dixon, whowas dispatched to the scene along with other members of BFD,Pearson was lucky that he kept his head under pressure.

“Anhydrous ammonia is not explosive itself, but the gases thatit puts off are what’s so dangerous,” he said. “It’s important tokeep it contained in order to prevent danger to the public and theenvironment.”