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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 23 - August 29, 2017
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Carolina Chaos: [b]Propane Tanker Recovery

0 85e31by Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

On the morning of April 4, a loaded propane tanker overturned in the residential neighborhood of Glen Alpine, N.C., causing a potentially chaotic situation.

Burke County Fire Marshal Mike Willis said that the driver was attempting to back into a driveway to fill up a propane tank at a house. There was a car in the driveway and the tanker's wheels slipped on some red mud that had built up when he was backing in to fill the tank. The tanker slid over into the ditch.

Burke Oil, the company that owned the tanker, called Smokey's Wrecker Service to recover the loaded propane tanker. Company owner and president Hubert Lail established and incorporated his company in 1973. His sons Jeff "J.T." and Jackie grew up in the family business.

"I grew up in this business," said J.T. "It's all I know. It's my life."

No propane or diesel fuel spilled from the tank, which was carrying approximately 1,900 gallons of propane, but a small amount of motor oil spilled and smeared on the side of the propane tank. There were minimal damages to the truck and the driver was not injured.

Jackie responded in their 1988 Freightliner with a 30-ton Kirby Grant on the business end. J.T. and his wife, Gina, responded in their 1998 Kenworth with a triple-frame-rail, double-barrel boom 88-ton Kirby Grant. Operator Carl Stamey went along to help with the rigging.

"When we got to the scene," J.T. said, "we checked it over and began rigging. We used two 10" x 15' recovery straps and chained them to the truck frame. We crisscrossed the straps for more of a solid lift because the tanker was full of propane."

Willis was reported as saying, "Propane is not really heavy, but it is heavy enough because the trunk, tank and everything else is a lot of weight. For safety, you do not want to jerk it around, so you just bring enough wrecker power to where they can ease it over."

Before Smokey's crew started the lift, Fire Marshals checked all around the truck to make sure all was secure. At least a dozen residents were evacuated from their homes as a precautionary measure due to the possible dangers of propane.

"They evacuated the area just in case of an explosion and we began to lift using both heavy wreckers," J.T. said.

The Glen Alpine Police and Fire Department, Lake James Fire Department, Burke REACT, Burke County Fire Marshal's Office and Burke EMS were on scene for several hours helping and keeping control during the chaos.

"We were called to help get the propane truck back on its wheels and we did," said J.T. "Our crew did a great job. All was successful, no problems and no injuries thanks to all emergency responders on scene."

The 1988 Freightliner/30-ton Kirby Grant towed the truck and tanker to Smokey's yard in Hickory.

"We took it to our storage lot and repaired it for Burke Oil," said J.T. It's already back on the road."

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Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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