LOCK HAVEN - A lethal combination of faulty equipment, fog and confused direction led to the recent death of a truck driver hauling water for a local natural gas drilling operation, state police Trooper Kevin Miller told the Clinton County Natural Gas Task Force Tuesday.
Discussions about the fatal crash dominated the meeting of the task force, as local representatives outlined the need for additional safeguards to insure the integrity of the Noyes Township area watershed and reservoir, and talked about other safety concerns.
On May 16, the driver of a 2005 International truck carrying a tank full of fresh water was killed after he apparently missed a sharp turn in the roadway, sending the truck rolling down the wooded mountainside.
George Garlick, 50, of Lock Haven, was pronounced dead at the scene by Clinton County Coroner Donald G. Walker.
The crash occurred sometime before 6 a.m. on Halls Run Road, Route 144, about six miles south of South Renovo in Noyes Township, according to state police at Lamar.
Trooper Miller said he conducted a vehicle and equipment inspection soon after he received word that a fatal crash occurred involving a commercial carrier.
He also said he filed two citations against QC Logistics late last week, both of which focused on the brake systems.
The company provides water and sand transportation to drilling rigs, impoundments and frack tanks on a year-round basis. It is a subcontractor of Anadarko Petroleum.
Anadarko spokeswoman Mary B. Wolf told the gathering that Anadarko has suspended operations with the company and ordered a stand-down until inspections are conducted to each unit in the fleet of trucks being used locally.
Miller said the section of Route 144 was bonded against damage, and Garlick was legal to drive on the highway, but Anadarko had a posted policy of prohibiting its contracted trucks from traveling beyond a point on that road.
"It was foggy that night," Miller said. "We believed he missed his road and continued until he hit the steep grade ... After that, the brakes heated up, and he could have slipped or missed a gear ... It was the brakes, the terrain and the fog."
Miller said it wasn't uncommon for local drivers who know the road to take the "short cut" to avoid a lengthy drive, but couldn't say for sure if the deceased ever had done that.
He also said the investigation hasn't been completed.
Miller said state police, with Anadarko's cooperation, have racheted-up patrols for truck violations in some areas, specifically for regions where a great deal of gas-related truck activity can be expected.
Clinton County Maintenance Manager Damon Wagner said the state Department of Transportation also is continuing its monitoring of the situation and he said just last Friday, a severely overweight truck was found on Route 144. The unidentified company faces a $17,000 fine for that violation, he said.
Gerald Lacy, task force environmental committee spokesman who also is involved with the Renovo area water reservoir, said the accident indeed was tragic, but could have been even worse, had the truck been hauling dangerous chemicals or contaminated water.
As it was, he said, one of the truck's fuel tanks broke, sending motor fuel into the ground. As a more troubling issue, he said that it was many hours before the crash actually was discovered, a fact that delayed emergency response time, although he had nothing but praise for the local firefighters.
"We've dodged a bullet - twice," he said, pointing to another, similar incident that occurred last year.
"Unfortunately, the truck went off radar," he said. "We need to work on our response time and develop a list of procedures and people to contact if and when this happens again ... Three people have been killed on that curve in my lifetime."
Sproul District Forester Doug D'Amore said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources experts concluded, given the small size of the contamination, that removal of the soil was not needed.
Instead, Anadarko officials said, the Department of Environmental Protection encouraged on-site microbial treatment to allow petroleum-eating microbes to be applied on the area and will take a secondary sampling in the future to see if they've done their job.