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One Dead After Semi-Truck Jet Fuel Spillage On US Hwy 301 Near Waldo

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A person died Wednesday morning following an incident in which a semi-truck carrying jet fuel flipped on US Highway 301, according to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.

ACSO spokesman Brandon Kutner said 8,000 gallons of jet fuel were spilled. The incident occurred on the 11500 block of NE US Highway 301.

Due to possible explosions and fire hazards, north and southbound lanes on US Highway 301 have been shut down between State Road 24 in Orange Heights and State Road 26, also known as Waldo Road. Hazmat teams are on the scene to collect jet fuel and minimize public safety hazards.

An off-duty firefighter with Alachua County Fire Rescue was the first to respond to the scene, Kutner said.

Florida Highway Patrol will conduct an investigation once the hazards have been cleared.

Florida Highway Patrol Captain Mike Burroughs said it is rare to see a spill of this size in Gainesville. He has been working in law enforcement for 32 years.

“The cleanup will last a week or more,” he said.

“The [jet fuel] vapors tend to hug the ground,” Captain Burroughs said. “Cars passing over it could ignite it.”

As of press time, the fuel is contained to the northbound lanes of U.S. Hwy 301. FHP split U.S. Hwy 301 southbound lanes into a two-way road.

Captain Burroughs said it would be hours before they would be able to safely reopen the road.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, the driver, a Tampa man, was driving northbound on U.S. Hwy 301 when he came to a curve in the road. Instead of curving left, the driver continued straight.

He realized his mistake and tried to overcompensate by turning sharply, which caused the fuel to rock against the tank. The weight of the fuel rocking the opposite way the driver was turning caused the trailer to break apart. The tank and the semi overturned.

Although the driver was wearing his seatbelt, he did not survive the accident. As of press time, FHP could not release his name because they had to notify his family first.

Lew Welge, a retired middle school guidance counselor, was driving back from Jacksonville when he witnessed the wreckage.

“I saw the cab turned over,” Welge said, “squashed.”

He said the driver could’ve missed the turn due to road fatigue and that it is a great loss to the truck driving community.

The DEP and the county health department will be notifying residents in the surrounding area about possible contamination of shallow wells.

In the meantime, Captain Burroughs warned people to check their water for a jet fuel smell before drinking it.

About Laura Cardona

Laura is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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