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Accident Report Detail

Truck Engine Fuel Tank Puncture by Bridge Repair Plate, Diesel Spill & Mutiple Vehicle Skidding Collisions

Executive Summary

​About 10:25 p.m. on August 27, 1981, a tractor-semitrailer loaded with steel pipe was traveling eastbound across the Calcasieu River Bridge, a 1 1/4 -mile long, four-lane divided highway bridge on Interstate 10 at the city limits of Lake Charles, Louisiana. As the truck was descending the east side of the bridge, the tractor's left side fuel tank was struck and penetrated by a dislodged bridge repair plate that had been used to cover a hole in a pavement expansion joint. As a result of about 75 gallons of diesel fuel leaking onto a  1/2-mile section of the bridge, 26 vehicles were involved in a series of skidding collisions. Three persons were killed, and 18 persons were injured; there were no fires.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the loss of vehicle control on a slippery highway surface, produced by a diesel fuel spill from a truck fuel tank punctured by a dislodged steel plate used as a temporary repair of a bridge expansion joint. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to make a permanent repair at that joint.

Accident Location: Lake Charles , LA    
Accident Date: 8/27/1981
Accident ID: DCA81AH009

Date Adopted: 7/15/1982
NTSB Number: HAR-82-04
NTIS Number: PB82-916204

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