A rear-end collision between two tractor-trailers on Interstate 40 near Flagstaff on Sunday morning left one man dead and sent traffic on an 18-mile detour when authorities discovered one of the trucks was carrying radioactive and possibly hazardous cargo.
A truck driven by 25-yearold Tim Harig hit another truck that was traveling eastbound at about 55 mph on I-40, officials said. Harig’s sleeping-berth passenger, Jasper Brown, 55, was killed in the crash, which also caused Harig’s cargo to shift inside the truck.
No materials spilled, but the threat of radioactive contamination brought hazardous materials units to the scene, Arizona Department of Public Safety officials said.
“With the exception of the hazardous radiation, there’s really not a lot more to this than a traffic fatality, which is a tragedy,” DPS spokesman Tim Mason said. “It’s not a threat to officers at the scene.”
Highway Patrol officers set up a 25-foot perimeter around the scene of the crash to prevent onlookers from approaching the radioactive material.
Harig was taken to Kingman Regional Medical Center with critical injuries. The driver of the first truck suffered only minor injuries, officials said.
Harig’s truck was hauling steel containers full of tools, articles of clothing and towels used by workers in contact with radioactive material — rendering the contents of those containers hazardous.
Officials said the truck was owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and was traveling from the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California to Waltz Mill Service Center in Pennsylvania.
Highway Patrol officers diverted traffic from off I-40 for several miles and then back onto I-40 at a safe distance from the crash scene — a detour of 18 miles.
The highway was closed for 10 hours and reopened at about 5:15 p.m.