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Tanker involved in jet fuel spill drove down closed road

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A tanker truck driver took a wrong turn and drove past two “road closed” signs before the vehicle tumbled off the road, spilling 35,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek in Slocan Valley.

“It is our understanding that he did not intend to travel on this road,” says Kate Trotter with the Ministry of Transportation.

The signs are in “very good condition and visible to all road users,” she adds..

Pictures and maps supplied by the ministry indicate several signs are posted along Lemon Creek Rd., warning drivers that it is inaccessible and unmaintained. One “road closed” sign about 700 metres before the truck fell into the river extends halfway across the gravel area, appearing to leave little room for larger vehicles to squeeze past.

But Roger Nickel, the base manager for Executive Flight Centre in Revelstoke, the company that owns and operates the tanker, says drivers often go past such swing signs and find the fuel drop-off point just beyond the signs. He adds the Ministry of Forestry said it would have someone there to meet the driver to direct him and no one showed up.

Officials from the Ministry of Forests is declining to comment because their investigation is ongoing.

Dozens of homes were evacuated Friday after the spill, and Environment Ministry officials have said dead fish were later found in Lemon Creek.

BC’s environment minister says it’s difficult to draw conclusions about transportation issues from “an incident that was very out of the ordinary.”

“Once [cleanup] is dealt with we would be moving on to look at what, if anything, could have been done to prevent this with respect to the truck,” Mark Polak says. “In terms of overall policy, we’d be not wise to be basing a lot of … thinking on that one incident.”

NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert says the spill highlights how, even with good safety protocols in place, one error can lead to devastating consequences. “When we’re talking about mass increase of exports of dangerous cargo, whether that’s oil, gas or other materials, we can’t assume just because somebody says it’s safe it means that it is.”