Three Plum Grove firefighters responding to an emergency Sunday afternoon were involved in a single-vehicle accident that ended with the tanker truck they were in being rolled over.
According to Sgt. Rob Willoughby, supervisor for the Liberty County office of Texas Department of Public Safety, the accident occurred at 4:23 p.m. on CR 5000.
“The vehicle left the roadway on the south shoulder and the driver overcorrected, which caused the truck to overturn,” said Willoughby. “It landed on its roof with three firefighters inside.”
The driver, James Autrey, and two 17-year-old passengers, who are members of the Plum Grove VFD’s junior firefighter program, all suffered minor cuts and scrapes but were otherwise in good condition, Willoughby said.
When asked if a mechanical problem with the vehicle was to blame for the crash, Willoughby said the investigation is looking into whether driver inattentiveness or a problem with the rear axle of the tanker played a part in the crash.
Plum Grove Fire Chief Chris Loftin says he spoke to Autrey immediately after the crash and was told that the tanker truck appears to have had a mechanical problem.
“James told me that he felt the rear axle start to vibrate. It felt like the brakes locked up and he slid toward the ditch,” Loftin said. “I can’t speculate on what happened to the truck but two other firefighters told me they had experienced similar problems with the same truck.”
Plum Grove Volunteer Fire Department, like other volunteer fire agencies in Liberty County, is manned by volunteers and operates on a tight budget. The loss of the tanker truck is a major blow. At the time of this crash, firefighters were responding to a fire call in one of the Colony Ridge communities.
With the agency’s only tanker out of commission, Loftin is hoping to borrow a tanker from a neighboring agency until they can settle the matter of the wrecked tanker with their insurance company.
“This is huge setback for us. This is our only tanker. Our engine is out being repaired, so we have been using the tanker to respond to fires,” he said.
While the wrecked vehicle is a major problem for his agency, Loftin is relieved that all three firefighters walked away from the crash.
“The tank on the truck is what saved them. Had the truck slid into the ditch, it would have sheered the cab off. They are lucky to be alive,” he said.
The accident investigation was conducted by Trooper Corey Prantil. Smith Towing was called to the scene to remove the vehicle from the roadway.
Photos accompanying this article are courtesy of Dayton Volunteer Fire Department.