MANCHESTER — A tanker transporting 9,000 gallons of propane overturned on Interstate 293 North early Wednesday morning, forcing the closure of both sides of the busy highway for almost five hours and the evacuation of buildings near the accident scene.
Crews from 15 state and local agencies were involved in getting the tanker back on its wheels and removing the propane.
"This was a very complicated process, involving many different agencies and departments," said District Fire Chief Michael Gamache. "But the vehicle was uprighted, the propane transferred, no injuries were reported and residents are back home."
The tanker tipped over and became stuck in a snow bank just before 6 a.m. Wednesday north of Exit 7 near the Amoskeag traffic circle, city Police Lt. Maureen Tessier said.
State police said the driver of the truck lost control, hit a passenger vehicle and jackknifed. Gamache said he was unaware of any injuries.Initially, one southbound lane of travel was shut down as workers prepared to remove the propane from the truck. Bill Boynton, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation, said the stretch of highway from Exit 7, after the Amoskeag traffic circle, to the split with Interstate 93 was closed at 11:30 a.m.
Southbound lanes of I-293 were opened to traffic just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, while the left lane on the northbound side between exits 6 and 7 opened around 6:30 p.m., though the right lane remained closed.
While the tanker was intact and no leaks were detected, fire officials requested an emergency evacuation of the nearby Stonyview Way Condominium complex at 1760 Front Street, as well as two homes north of the accident scene, due to the explosive nature of the cargo.
"The evacuation was ordered as a precautionary measure as officials assessed the situation to determine the best course of action in removing the disabled tanker safely from the area," Tessier said.
Gamache said fire officials found that a wider evacuation of buildings within a half mile radius of the accident wasn't necessary.
The William B. Cashin Senior Activity Center at 151 Douglas Street in Manchester was designated as a shelter, though at 2 p.m. Wednesday a receptionist at the front counter of the center said they had not seen any evacuees arrive, and had received a call from fire officials telling them not to expect anyone the rest of the day.
"We determined around mid-afternoon it was safe to let the residents back into their homes," said Gamache. "The danger wasn't completely gone, or we would have opened the highway, but the situation was under control enough to allow them to return."
The propane tanker was righted using wrecker cranes, and placed on a flatbed truck. Officials then began the process of draining the propane gas, which lasted a little over two hours.
Message boards along the state's highways were used to alert motorists to closures and detours. Route 3A was closed during the operation due to its proximity to the crash. Front Street remained open to traffic.
A second accident involving an overturned propane truck happened about 1 p.m. Wednesday in Bow. No injuries were reported, but the truck brought down live electrical wires on White Rock Hill Road. The cause of the rollover had yet to be determined as of Wednesday evening, but police said slippery road conditions were likely a factor.