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Employees from a nearby business rescued a man from an overturned gasoline tanker just before it exploded on Tuesday afternoon.
J.B. Burns, who works at Fastenal, a construction and industrial supply company, heard a crash outside the business and looked out to see the tanker flipped on its side. The crash happened at U.S. 521 and Twilight Road at 1:54 p.m., according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Burns told a coworker, Stephen Cudd, to call 911.
The driver of the truck, Stanley W. Perry, 53, of Charlotte, was pinned inside the truck, a 2005 Freightliner. The tanker was carrying 8,000 gallons of gas, said Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Jeff Gaskin.
Burns said the driver's side of the cab was crushed, and Perry's leg was pinned between the steering wheel and the cab door.
Perry, who had a large cut on his forehead, tried to crawl out of the windshield, which was completely blown out in the crash.
“He had had his seat belt on. He was all tangled up in it,” Burns said.
Burns said another passer-by ran up, and the two men pulled the driver from the cab. The driver was taken to Springs Memorial Hospital by Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services. His condition was not immediately available.
“Hopefully, the guy's going to be OK,” Burns said. “He passed out as soon as we got him out of the truck.”
Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Morris Russell said Perry was removed from the truck just in time.
The truck exploded and was soon engulfed in flames. One small explosion after the fire started sent flames and smoke roiling around the wreckage.
“What's the odds of this?” Russell said.
Tuesday marked the second time a tanker has exploded in the county in three weeks. A tanker exploded on S.C. 903 on Dec. 23. The driver from that accident walked away unhurt.
Gaskin said Perry was headed south on U.S. 521 when he tried to turn right onto Twilight Road. He took the turn too quickly, causing the tanker to overturn.
Charges are pending, Gaskin said.
Twilight Road and part of U.S. 521 around the crash scene were closed late Tuesday afternoon. It would be up to S.C. Department of Transportation as to when the roads would be reopened, Gaskin said.
The S.C. Highway Patrol, Transportation Police, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, Forestry, Lancaster Fire Department, Lancaster County Fire Service and Elgin Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire.
Fighting the fire
At about 2:30 p.m., Russell said he expected the fire to burn for another two hours.
Firefighters debated letting the fire burn itself out, or attacking it with foam.
Suppressing it with foam could lessen the impact on air quality, but letting it burn posed a threat to nearby Bear Creek, Russell said. Officials planned to block a ditch with sand to keep runoff from the blaze from contaminating the creek.
“We got what we wanted out of the truck – the driver,” Russell said.
The fire burned a nearby hillside and power lines over the burning truck smoked.
The heat from the fire could be felt several hundred feet away.
“You couldn't put your hand on that building right now,” said Russell about the metal-sided Fastenal building. “That's how hot it is.”
Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 283-1151