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Milk truck accident under investigation

By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury police continue to investigate a Friday afternoon accident in the community’s downtown rotary that led to the capsizing of a tractor trailer unit carrying 64,000 pounds of milk. Middlebury Fire Chief Dave Shaw said the truck driver claimed the trailer separated from the truck after he was forced to brake suddenly for a vehicle that had entered the rotary at the same time.
“The trailer ripped the fifth wheel off the truck,” causing the trailer to capsize, Shaw said. He also cited the inertia of the heavy, moving trailer as a factor in its tip-over at the intersection of Cross and Main Streets.
The Dumas Trucking vehicle, out of Poultney, was headed to the Agri-Mark/Cabot plant on Exchange Street, according to Shaw.
Officials said the accident was reported at around 2:50 p.m. Responders found the truck at a standstill at the Main Street median and the milk tank trailer on its side, hemorrhaging a steady stream of milk. Shaw estimates around 40,000 pounds of milk spilled from the tank, making its way along Main Street and into municipal storm drains located in front of the new municipal building and the Ben Franklin store. Those storm drains lead into the Otter Creek, where the milk ended up.
Shaw called the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Hazmat to explain the situation. Though the substance in question was simply milk, the spill was treated as a potentially hazardous incident because of the shear volume of product involved, according to Shaw.
State officials told Shaw there was no need to take corrective action, and the milk was allowed to dissipate within the Otter Creek water flow, the chief said.
The accident resulted in Main Street being totally shut off for around 45 minutes, according to Shaw. A lane was opened up after the truck cab was moved.
But it took around six hours for officials to move the capsized trailer, Shaw said.
First, fire personnel had to rig barriers around the two Main Street storm drains to prevent further escape of milk into the Otter Creek.
Then, local officials had to follow state protocols for clearing the scene of such an accident. This included waiting for a Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles official to arrive from Colchester to inspect the scene. Then the remaining milk had to be pumped out of the tank and another vehicle had to be secured to take the milk trailer away once it had been up-righted by a wrecker, Shaw said.
The scene was finally cleared at around 9 p.m., Shaw said.
No charges have been filed at this point as a result of the accident, Shaw said. Middlebury police are conducting a probe that will likely include a determination of whether the truck equipment was sound, officials said.
Middlebury Regional EMS assisted at the scene with lighting.

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