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Trailer carrying coffee goes down 81-N embankment - abc27 WHTM

Trailer carrying coffee goes down 81-N embankment

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LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) -

Less than 300 gallons of diesel fuel have spilled into a waterway after a tractor trailer carrying cans of Maxwell House coffee went down an embankment and overturned.

The right lane of Interstate 81 North near Grantville was closed most of Friday and traffic was backed up for miles while crews pass containers of coffee up the hill one at a time. They expected the process of clearing the scene to take all night.

A crew from the Department of Environmental Protection was also on scene to deal with the fuel spill. At 3:30 p.m., department spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz said the spill, which went into an unnamed tributary of Reed Creek, had been contained and much of it soaked up by booms placed in the creek. There is no danger to the environment at this time.

The accident occurred at 12:04 p.m. when a tractor trailer blew a rear tire. Though the truck pulled onto the shoulder, the tire tred was still on the highway and caused traffic to abruptly slow down.

That's when another tractor trailer, attempting to slow down, drove onto the right berm of the highway and lost control of his vehicle. It then rolled down an embankment and came to rest 100 feet below.

The cab portion of truck was upside down in the creek. The driver was able to escape with only minor injuries. 

"[He's] very lucky man," said Juan Rodriguez, Special Operations Hazmat chief for Lebanon County.  "Must've had a guardian angel driving beside him because in the condition of that truck, [it's] very rare for anyone to survive."

Traffic was backed up for nearly 10 miles due to the accident. State Police said they expected the traffic to worsen as rush hour approaches.

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