SKOWHEGAN — The driver of a tanker truck loaded with home heating oil escaped injury Friday morning after the truck flipped over in a driveway on Bigelow Hill Road.

A small amount of oil leaked from the truck and state Department of Environmental Protection crews were called to the scene to contain the spill and pump the fuel oil from the 2004 Freightliner into another truck, police said. The trucks are owned by Bob’s Cash Fuel and Propane, of Madison.

Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais said the driver, Gene Aubry, 72, of Norridgewock, thought the long, steep driveway at the top of Bigelow Hill had a gravel base that would provide traction after Thursday night’s light snow.

The driveway was paved and icy.

“He made it almost three-quarters of the way up the driveway but lost traction and started to slide back,” Blais said. “He slid back over 275 feet, and at that point the truck veered off the driveway and got into the softer ground on the side and flipped it up on its side. The driver was very fortunate that he was not injured. I’m quite surprised, because it was a very big truck that flipped on its side.”

The truck landed on the driver’s side, and Aubry managed to climb out the passenger side door, which slammed shut and locked when he got out. A crew from Boulet’s Truck Service of Fairfield broke the passenger side window to get inside and get the truck ready to be righted.

“It holds 44 hundred gallons and he only had 150 gallons out of it, so it was well over 4,000 gallons of fuel,” Blais said. “The driver looked fine to me. He was talking fine, but boy, he must have went for a ride.”

Blais said when the call came in about 8:30 a.m., he thought that with an oil truck on its side, everybody immediately assumes something’s got to be leaking out of it.

Bart Newhouse, a DEP oil and hazardous materials responder, said at the scene that a small amount of oil had leaked out, but most of it was contained in buckets and a heavy plastic bag attached to one of the truck’s baffles, devices that tanker trucks use to keep the liquid inside from sloshing around or escaping.

“It’s leaking right now, but they’re catching it with absorbent pads. There’s a little bit on the ground,” Newhouse said. “I’m going to climb up and I’m going to drill holes in it and we’re going to pump it off.”

Robert Shibley, owner of Bob’s Cash Fuel, was called to the scene to oversee the truck’s removal.

“We had our crews here immediately and got everything contained and the DEP’s helping and we’re working with DEP to make sure everything stays contained,” Shibley said. “There’s no loss of oil other than what’s going into those two buckets.”

Jason Courtemanche, of Boulet’s Truck Service, which does vehicle maintenance for Bob’s Cash Fuel, said the preventative work done to the Freightliner paid off.

“I guess we did a pretty good job on the baffles because there’s nothing leaking out and it’s sitting on it’s side,” Courtemanche said. “It could have been a lot worse. If those things had opened up, all that oil would have gone right down the hill here.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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