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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJuly 11 - July 17, 2018

Submerged, Leaking in Mass.

0 c1153By Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

Big Wheel Towing & Recovery in East Freetown, Mass., is one of the largest well-respected towing companies in New England. Bob Fouquette started his family business in 1980 and now has three generations actively working, including sons Eric and David.

On June 22, the Rochester Police called them to recover a fully loaded tractor-dump trailer unit submerged in water.

"The driver of the tractor-trailer was trapped in the submerged cab and emergency personnel, as well as civilian passers-by, were attempting to extricate him," Eric said. "They also stated that there was a substantial diesel fuel and oil leak into the water."

The driver was removed by other first responders and flown to a hospital.

Bob, Eric and David, along with operators Frank Abbaticola, Nate Wing, Johnny DeOliveira and Jade Rodrigues, headed to the scene in a 2017 Kenworth/Jerr-Dan 60-ton rotator, 2016 Peterbilt/Century 1150 rolling rotator, 2001 International HAZMAT/recovery truck, Kubota skid-steer with power broom attachment and a 2012 Landoll tractor-trailer unit.

Upon impact with the steel guardrail, the front axle was ripped completely out from underneath the tractor; the fuel tank, hydraulic oil tank, radiator, and engine oil base pan were compromised.

"This waterway supplies water to the numerous cranberry bogs directly downstream," Eric said. "Therefore, minimizing or stopping the flow of the contaminants completely was of utmost concern."

Big Wheel's crew placed several bags of absorbent pads and booms onto the water to begin soaking up the fluids and to create a dike where the runoff drain formed. Large sections of plywood were used to hold back the water from traveling into the river and the bogs until the tractor-trailer could be removed.

After they removed the guardrail, the rotator was able to lift the heavy front axle out from the water and place it onto a flatbed ramp truck.

Once the utility company cut the power and removed the power lines, Big Wheel diver Thomas Johnson entered the contaminated water to view the submerged tractor-trailer for rigging points. He found that the fifth wheel had broken off of the tractor's frame, so the tractor and trailer were disconnected.

"It became clear that the most logical recovery method would be to recover the tractor and trailer separately from the water so that each could be dealt with on an individual basis," Eric said.

The diver attached heavy chain bridles to the front and rear sections of the tractor's frame. He then connected the rigging to the upper winch lines of both rotators and left the water.

In tandem, the rotators brought the submerged tractor out of the water. It was kept on its side so that the tanks could be drilled and pumped before it was completely uprighted to reduce the amount of hazardous fluids escaping into the water and onto the roadway. As the rotators held the elevated tractor in place, a containment pool was placed underneath the leaking tanks.

With the fluids siphoned, and both rotators uprighted, the tractor placed it onto Big Wheel's Landoll where it was relocated on the scene.

Absorbent granules were spread and the Kubota sweeper worked the absorbent into the roadway to lift the contaminants from the pavement. The Kubota was then used to place Big Wheel's specialized trailer dolly where it would be connected to the underside of the trailer. Both rotators were re-positioned on top of the bridge to begin the recovery of the loaded trailer.

Johnson re-entered the water and attached heavy-duty chain bridles to the underside of the trailer's frame and attached to the upper winch lines.

Both rotator operators once again worked in tandem to lift and roll the loaded trailer onto its side and dumped the remainder of the stone into the water. The dump trailer was then uprighted and placed on the roadway.

The rotator in front detached all of its rigging from the trailer and pulled ahead in order to place the dolly underneath the trailer. The rotator in the rear held the trailer in place because one of the legs of the landing gear was ripped away. The Kubota maneuvered the dolly underneath the front of the trailer and locked it into place so that it could be safely transported.

Several large jersey barriers were trucked in. A rotator lifted and placed them in a line the entire length of the bridge to create a temporary guardrail system.

"Our final task was to lift a large steel plate with our rotator and place it in front of the run-off area to completely stop the flow of the contaminated water into the river and bogs. All of the contaminated absorbent pads and booms were collected and disposed of by the environmental company."

Editor's Note: Read the whole story in an upcoming issue of American Towman Magazine.

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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
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