Big rig slams into tree, causing chemical scare

Published On: Aug 01 2012 09:26:53 AM CDT   Updated On: Aug 01 2012 04:54:17 PM CDT

Aug. 1, 2012: A big rig slams into a fence and tree, causing a chemical scare and critically injuring the driver. Courtney Zavala reports.


A big rig slammed into a fence and tree in Liberty County on Wednesday, causing a chemical scare.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the accident happened in the 1280 block of Highway 59 North shortly before 9 a.m., next to the Performance Truck dealership in Cleveland.

Witnesses said the big rig crashed through a fence before hitting the tree head-on. The cab of the big rig was crushed. The driver, Robert Luten, 53, was hospitalized in critical condition.

Officials said a chemical leaked at the scene, contaminating two air medical pilots and several firefighters. Five EMS workers were decontaminated at local hospitals.

Officials later said the substance was not hazardous. It was alkaline sulfate, which is the same ingredient used in soap.

A hazardous materials unit was called to the scene. No evacuations were ordered.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

A southbound lane of Highway 59 was closed until the scene is cleared.

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