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2017.11.01 Hard to believe what spills from trucks

By RICH FOLEY 

This has been a banner year for things falling off trucks, and we still have two months to go. After reading about a few of the incidents, you may decide it’s safer just to stay home.

In mid-January, a truck hauling marbles dropped 38,000 pounds of them on Interstate 465, the highway that encircles Indianapolis. I’ve driven on 465 a few times over the years and it can be a bit problematic. I can’t imagine having to dodge a million or so marbles at the same time.

Also in January, several hundred thousand Skittles candies, all of them red, fell from a farm truck in Wisconsin. Early reports said that the Skittles, held in a very large cardboard box on their way to be used for cattle feed, made their escape when the box started disintegrating in the rain. After that, the story took a few strange turns.

A spokeswoman for the Mars company said that the Skittles were unsalable because a power outage at the Illinois manufacturing plant prevented the “S” logo from being added to each Skittle. I wonder why it couldn’t be added later when the plant regained power.

The question bothering the folks at Mars was how did the Skittles get from the plant in Illinois to a rural road in Wisconsin? They said the Skittles should not have been sold directly to a farmer. Normally, surplus candies and ingredients are sold to processors who use them in combination with other components to produce animal feed in accordance with regulations from the Food and Drug Administration. In any case, I hope the cows got something a bit more nutritious to eat. That many Skittles could give them diabetes.

August was a good month to avoid Arkansas, unless you were thirsty. The first big spill of the month occurred Aug. 2. A tanker truck on Interstate 40 crashed, losing its load of bourbon. I didn’t know they transported it that way. At least the ants, worms and stray animals in the area got a little treat.

Just a week later, an 18-wheeler hauling DiGiorno and Tombstone frozen pizzas hit a bridge support on Interstate 30 south of Little Rock. The bridge received only minor cosmetic damage, but the impact sliced open the trailer and dumped its load on the highway, right in front of the Arkansas Department of Transportation office. 

Westbound lanes were closed for four hours and eastbound for one while the mess was cleaned up. At least the folks at the ADOT office probably didn’t have to go out for lunch that day.

Two weeks later, a trucker near the intersection of U.S. 278 and Arkansas 24 near Camden was distracted by his GPS device and swerved into the oncoming lane. He overcorrected, rolled his truck, and lost his load.

Luckily, the accident occurred about 3 a.m., so no other vehicles were involved and the driver only suffered minor injuries. However, several thousand jars of spaghetti sauce bound for Dallas didn’t make it. The photos of the aftermath looked like a bloodbath, but it was only the end for a whole bunch of sauce. The brand wasn’t identified, but it looked like Prego to me.

That was a big mess, but it was nothing compared to a chain-reaction accident in Oregon in July. It occurred on Highway 101 near the town of Depoe Bay. A truck was hauling 7,500 pounds of hagfish, often called slime eels. Neither name sounds too appetizing. The load was to be exported to South Korea, where some people are said to consider eels a delicacy.

Traffic had been halted for construction, but the trucker wasn’t able to stop and the load shifted, causing an eel container to “fly across the highway,” according to the Oregon State Police. It hit a vehicle and 12 other containers emptied onto Highway 101. Eventually, five vehicles were involved in the wreck. And then it got worse.

When hagfish are stressed, they usually secrete slime for protection, and this was definitely a stressful situation. The OSP posted a photo online showing vehicles covered in eels and slime and asked the question “What to tell the dry cleaner?” It took a bulldozer and fire hoses to clean up the mess.

Luckily, there were only minor injuries, but I have to believe the eels weren’t the only ones making secretions during the incident. If I lived in Oregon, I think I’d keep off the roads, at least until eel season is over.