A tractor-trailer carrying cosmetic powder and a tanker truck carrying raw sewage burst into flames after colliding head-on along a Montgomery County road leaving one driver dead.
The deadly, explosive wreck closed South Park Avenue near Crawford Road in Audubon, Pennsylvania shortly before 6 a.m. Monday, said county dispatchers.
"I jumped up out of bed and just tried offering help wherever we could," said neighbor Ray Ross.
The impact badly damaged the tanker truck cab, causing the driver to become trapped. The driver died in the wreck, said police. The semi-truck driver escaped uninjured.
Investigators said that the Aqua Pennsylvania tanker carried sewage while the tractor-trailer carried barrels of Aquabeads 519, a white powder and smoothing agent used in makeup. While the substance is not hazardous, it may cause breathing difficulties if inhaled.
Both police and witnesses told NBC10 the cab of the truck carrying the powder separated from the trailer and the trailer then slammed into the Aqua truck.
"It was observed that the two tractor-trailers had collided in a head-on matter, causing one of the trailers to split open and discharging containers containing a white powder onto the roadway," said Lower Providence Township Police Chief Francis Carroll.
As SkyForce10 hovered over the crash scene, the white substance could be seen covering the vehicles and roadway. Dozens of barrels could be seen on the roadway.
Ross said neighbors put out a small fire on one of the lawns by using a garden hose before firefighters showed up. Firefighters then used dry powder and water to extinguish the blaze, said Carroll.
"We have a significant amount of dry powder on the roadway," he said.
Hazmat crews were called in out of caution despite the white powder being deemed non-hazardous, said police. No nearby homes were evacuated.
Electrical service was cut off to homes on the 700 block and 800 block of South Park Avenue due to a concern that static electricity emanating from high voltage lines would interact with the powder. PECO officials confirmed power had been restored to those homes early Tuesday morning.
Some of the sewage from the tanker trailer discharged into a storm sewer grate near the crash scene. The sewer line discharges into the nearby Mine Run Creek. U.S. Environmental officials are investigating.
Expect delays in the area as crews work to clean up the mess and investigators from the township and county try to determine what caused the crash.
Carroll warned there could also be damage to the roadway and that the clean-up effort and investigation could take until Tuesday morning.
A spokesperson for Aqua released a statement on the driver's death.
Aqua employees are deeply saddened by this tragic loss and send their prayers and thoughts to the employee’s family and friends. The employee’s name is being withheld to afford the family the privacy they deserve at this sorrowful time.
Aqua has and is cooperating with the Lower Providence Township Police Department, which is investigating the circumstances of the accident.