Diesel River Take My Time: Response by State Troopers delayed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 8, 2004

SUMTER COUNTY – A single vehicle accident on U.S Highway 80 West about two miles into Sumter County from the Rooster Bridge, didn’t result in the death or injury to the driver.

It did, however, cause a considerable delay to not only the driver but two other passers-by who waited at the scene for more than an hour before law enforcement arrived.

Doug Murphy of Glennville was heading his Mack boom truck toward Jacksonville, Fla., when a tire blew near Mile Marker 22 east of the Livingston Cut-Off. The truck swerved across the westbound lane of the highway before leaving the road, rolling once before coming to a stop on its driver’s side.

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“It’s amazing how long you have to wait for law enforcement,” Murphy, who was uninjured, said.

According to Murphy and Howard Miles, a trucker who stopped to help, 911 was called a few minutes before noon. The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, they said, told them they would refer to the call to the Tuscaloosa post of the Alabama State Troopers to work the wreck. A subsequent call to the sheriff’s department told the drivers that neither troopers nor deputies were available to work the accident or provide traffic control around the scene, and that it would be at least an hour before Troopers could reach the accident from Tuscaloosa.

“Nine out of 10 times, you’ll see four state troopers,” he said.

Traffic slowed around the wreck site, but was never impeded the pair said.

The men also said they were told that a state hazardous materials team was being dispatched from Montgomery to deal with diesel fuel that was visibly leaking from the overturned truck’s “saddle” tanks. The fuel was spilling into a concrete drainage ditch and into a nearby creek.

The first sign that assistance was on the way was when two two-man Alabama Department of Transportation crews arrived, saying they were there to assist with traffic control, but took no action pending the arrival of State Troopers.

According to a dispatcher with the Selma Trooper’s post, at the time of the wreck there were no Trooper units available to assist in the wreck, but the dispatcher said that would have been prompted by a request for assistance from the Tuscaloosa post.

The dispatcher said standard procedures allowed another Trooper post to call another post to provide assistance. No request had been made of Selma by Tuscaloosa. In this instance.

“Thankfully, I wasn’t injured and needed medical attention,” Murphy said.

Calls to the Trooper post in Tuscaloosa and the Department of Public Safety in Montgomery were unreturned at press time, as was a call to Sumter County Sheriff Johnny Hatter.

– Clay McCombs contributed to this report.