20-hour scare in Niagara County ends without incident

Oct 25, 2017

It was a tense 20 hours in the Town of Niagara after a tanker truck full of liquid hydrogen had an accident in a local parking lot.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

It all started around 10 p.m. Monday night, when a hydrogen tanker truck turning around in the parking lot of a Wegman's market on Military Road became wedged on top of the concrete plinth of a light. That initiated a swarming of specialized hazmat teams and other first responders to the scene.

As specially trained workers from the tanker company carefully set up to move the hydrogen from the dented tanker to another truck, residents in the area were told to shelter in place, as hydrogen is very flammable.

Niagara County Emergency Services Director Jonathan Schultz said the destination of the truck is not yet clear.

"We're not sure where this hydrogen was going," Schultz said. "It's used for multiple applications across the country. Multiple facilities use it. We're not sure where it was actually headed."

Schultz said county firefighters and emergency services crews frequently drill for exactly what happened in the parking lot, trying to make sure they are ready when the real thing happens, as it did Monday night.

Niagara County Emergency Services Director Jonathan Schultz
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Our county HazMat Team, the air base hazmat team that's here, operational since last night, and local fire departments - these are things that we do look at all the time," Schultz said. "We look at these tanker issues, challenges that we're faced with and these crews work a lot on them. Some people question, 'What's taking so long?' It's all about the safety. These are dangerous materials and we need to make sure everyone's safe and everyone goes home."

Schultz said a basic safety rule is "nothing goes fast." Speaking with reporters Tuesday, he repeatedly said the investigation is continuing, including from why the truck was turning around in the parking lot to the condition of the driver at the wheel when it went wrong.

Wegmans issued a statement saying it would reopen Wednesday at 7 a.m.