Watson Lake flirted with disaster on Tuesday after a tractor trailer filled with explosives collided with a tractor trailer hauling diesel just outside the town.
If the crash had resulted in a harder impact, or if the diesel had ignited, the truck’s 7,500 kilograms of type B explosives may well have exploded.
Since the explosives truck, run by Watson Lake’s R and L Trucking, was illegally travelling without proper warning placards, firefighters and nearby civilians would not have known of the potential risks were a fire to have broken out.
“Charges are pending on the driver of the trailer with the explosives,” said Const. Karl MacIsaac with the Watson Lake RCMP.
“There are a number of issues being looked at here,” said John Warkentin, a manager of commercial vehicle enforcement with Transport Canada.
“It would have been pretty severe,” said Ron Cannon, an explosives technician with Sardis Explosives in Chilliwack, BC, imagining the effects of the blast.
“There would have been a huge crater in the road, and you would have felt the shockwave from at least one, maybe two miles away,” he said.
A minimum evacuation radius of 1.6 kilometres would have been standard practice in protecting surrounding residents from a potential blast, he said.
“(R and L Trucking) has an internal ongoing investigation and we have asked that they supply us a copy of all that detail so that we can review it to make sure that they have identified what went wrong in their procedure and how they’re going to correct it in the future,” said Britt Reid, chief operations officer with North American Tungsten, who runs the Cantung Mine.
“At the mine site we follow all Yukon and NWT legislation to the letter of the law,” he said.
In the summer of 1998, a truck carrying 18,000 kilograms of blasting explosives went off the road near Walden, Ontario, and immediately caught fire.
Thirty-five minutes later, the truck exploded, sending fragments of the truck up to 2,740 metres away and damaging several nearby houses.
Thanks to warnings from the truck’s driver as well as posted warning placards, the surrounding area was safely evacuated. The massive explosion only caused two minor injuries.
The two tractor trailers were traveling at about 50 kilometres per hour along the Robert Campbell Highway, both bound for the Cantung Mine, when the truck carrying the explosives rear-ended the diesel truck and veered into a ditch.
“Due to snow, the (explosives truck) was following too close,” said Const. MacIsaac.
R and L Trucking refused comment.
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