Propane Hauler Overturns at Walnut Ridge, Area Evacuated

February 9, 2007 -- Posted at 9:21 p.m. CST

WALNUT RIDGE, AR -- An emergency situation developed in Walnut Ridge around noon on Friday when a tanker truck hauling propane flipped over at the intersection of Highways 412 and 91.

Emergency officials responded to the accident immediately.  After a quick assessment of the situation, they decided to evacuate the eastern side of town.

The Walnut Ridge School is just a few blocks from the scene of the accident.  Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers called Superintendent Terry Belcher and told him the school had to be evacuated.

"She told me there had been an accident with a propane truck and that we needed to evacuate the school," said Belcher.

The parents of the 780 kids in the school were notified of the accident.  Kids were bussed home, and those who didn't ride the bus were taken to the First Baptist Church until they could be picked up.

Sherry Butts works at the school, and also has two children enrolled there.

"I was a little bit scared.  I was just concerned about getting the kids out and home," said Butts.

Belcher said everyone reacted quickly at the school.  He said the kids grabbed their backpacks and followed orders.

While evacuations were happening, the fire department called in hazmat to assess the situation, all while officers sat at different entrance points to the accident to keep residents out.

"For the most part everyone was real cooperative.  Everything worked really well for us," said Fire Chief Alan Haskins.

At the end of the day, the crisis was averted thanks to the hard work done by emergency officials.

The roads opened back up around 6:30 p.m. Friday evening.

The driver of the truck was issued a "careless and prohibited" ticket for trying to pull into a space too small for his vehicle.

He also was given a breathalyzer test at the Walnut Ridge Police Department.  Officials said a breathalyzer is required by the company the driver works for whenever one of the drivers is involved in an accident.

According the police department that test came back negative.