Labor Day Weekend Claims Two Truck Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 9/02/2013
Every year, the Labor Day holiday brings an increased number of drivers to U.S. roadways. Estimates released by AAA earlier this week suggest that over 34 million Americans will travel a distance of 50 miles or greater over the holiday weekend. These numbers represent a 4.2 percent gain from the number of Americans who traveled the same distance during the Labor Day holiday in 2012. According to the National Safety Council, more drivers on U.S. roadways will also lead to an increased risk of traffic accident related fatalities and they predict the number this year to be 394 traffic accident related deaths. So far, this number includes two truck drivers who died in traffic related deaths over the weekend.
In California, a tanker burst into flames Saturday while making its way to an elderly couple's Escalon home. The tanker was carrying 8,000 gallons of gas when it burst into flames after colliding with a boxcar, drenching both sides of Mariposa Road with fuel. Unfortunately, the driver of the tanker truck died in the crash; but it could have been much worse if not for some fire crews passing by and the California Highway Patrol officer who went above and beyond. “Everywhere you looked was on fire,” said CHP Officer Angel Arceo. “It was pretty crazy.” “In my eight years on the job, its probably one of the craziest things I’ve seen,” said Arceo.
The fire from the explosion was so hot it melted down metal pieces of truck into liquid and sparked a 2-acre grass fire that burning dangerously close to Gene Nimocks’ home. “I came out the front door and the heat was already so intense from those burning bushes which were saturated with gasoline that I couldn’t even stand here on the porch,” he said. Crews coming home from the Rim Fire happened to drive by at the right moment. They saw the flames and stopped to help put them out, saving even more homes and possible lives. CHP says the driver who caused the accident will face vehicular manslaughter charges. Mariposa Road was reopened Sunday after crews repaved the road and Utility crews have restored power to nearby homes.
On Sunday morning in Oklahoma, a Henryetta truck driver also died after another fatal traffic accident, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Gary Todd Sanford, 48, was driving a tractor-trailer eastbound about 7 a.m. on State Highway 51 in Kingfisher County. The vehicle went off the road and overturned, troopers said. Sanford, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the truck. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, troopers said.
According to the National Safety Council, the single most effective way to reduce traffic related fatalities over the Labor Day weekend is to buckle up. The organization estimates that over 140 traffic related fatalities could be avoided by employing this safety measure.