It was a priority load, explosives destined for the oil drilling industry in south Louisiana. Scheduled to load at Halliburton’s facility on South I35 outside Fort Worth TX at about 4:30 pm Friday. I was under a short deadline to pick up my load, as it’s a high security complex and loads are only allowed out during specific times.
This place is touchy, you stay with your truck, and follow directions precisely. There is no messing around when it comes to explosives. After being ushered to the loading point, I was quickly and efficiently loaded.
One nice thing about hauling explosives in a Hot Shot scenario is the loads are generally small. Low profile, and light weight, I guess they don’t want too big of a crater when you make that one, and only bad mistake.
Loaded, with tarps covering the load, I attached my Hazmat Placards and was on my way. With instructions to get there ASAP, as a boat was waiting to take my load out to a drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
With a distance of just over 600 miles to go, it was rock and roll time. With careful monitoring of the log book, I stopped for a very short nap at the Flying J in Shreveport LA. Fueled and flying, it was time to run again.
I rolled into Venice LA, a dusty dirty construction area, not even organized enough to call it a town. The whole southern part of the peninsula which extends south well out into the Gulf of Mexico is nothing more then a collection of construction sights and warehousing lots all in support of the many oil drilling platforms located well off shore.
Unloaded in a matter of an hour, I was headed north again toward New Orleans. By this time I was getting pretty tired and unsure of my directions. As I left the peninsula and approached civilization I needed to make a stop to study the map and plot a way back toward Texas.
As soon as I got back on the freeway, I took the first exit, and pulled into a small service station. Parking, so I could exit out the other side through their other driveway. After a few minutes plotting my new course, it was time to go.
This is where the whole trip goes bad. I hadn’t noticed that this only other driveway exited onto a boulevard, with a strip of land between the two way flow of traffic. I couldn’t just go across and re-enter the freeway. I was required to make a right turn and go around the block.
With my mind preoccupied with how I was going to get out of the city, and watching for oncoming traffic, I failed to notice a fire hydrant located on the right edge of the driveway as I pulled out into traffic. As I made the corner, I felt a momentary hesitation as the rear corner of my trailer rubbed slightly against the hydrant.
As I quickly glanced into the right side mirror, I could see what had happened. It looked like the hydrant was leaning just a few degrees, and I thought it would survive the nudge.
New Orleans is built on a sand bog with the water level just below the surface. Just as I cleared the hydrant, the water gushed. Granted it wasn’t as dramatic as those on TV, but it rose to 4-5’. Within seconds the ground around the hydrant had vanished, and the hydrant dropped out of sight in the ever growing hole.
The thought quickly entered my mind, just keep on going. There wasn’t another person in sight, and I’d be long gone before anyone realized I was rapidly flooding the community.
Fear prevented me from doing so. Fear that the company I was leased to would find out, fear that someone was watching and could identify me, fear of the unknown consequences of my actions. I pulled over, and walked back to the service station. Informed them of what happened, and waited for the police to arrive.
There was no convincing that Jefferson Parish Patrol Officer that I was barely moving at the time. He was convinced that because the hydrant was lopped off completely, and out of sight that I had proceeded at a reckless speed through the parking lot causing mayhem, and wanton destruction. In reality a cast iron hydrant held in place with a rubber seal enclosed in a two piece clamp is designed to break loose rather then be destroyed when suffering an impact.
No matter, within about two hours I had signed on the dotted line in receipt of a $160 ticket for failure to maintain control. With expectations of a hefty bill being sent to my insurance carrier for the overtime required, as it was a Sunday morning and utility workers by the dozen had been called out to address the issue.
I guess the ticket wasn’t the end of the world, as the trucking company realized, when I called in to report the accident, that obviously I had neither been drinking, or was high on drugs and waived the usual mandatory drug test. I never heard that anyone got a bill for the repairs, so I may have lucked out there as well.
The rest of the trip went well, but with my profits severely damaged it was a rude welcome for my first visit to New Orleans.
Article provided by: Curtis Carper