Today in fire history: tractor trailer accident results in several fatalities

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Jan 19, 2012

On January 19, 1985, in Benicia, California, a truck pulling two tank trailers loaded with molten sulfur was involved in a collision.  The truck/trailer combination jumped the center divider into oncoming traffic, striking a truck headed in the other direction.  One of the tanks ruptured, spilling its contents and spewing molten sulfur onto two other vehicles.

The driver of the sulfur truck, as well as two occupants of one of the vehicles sprayed with molten sulfur perished in the incident.  The Benicia Fire Department arrived within five minutes of the accident, and firefighting operations lasted for about four hours.  The following are considered major factors in the incident:

  • Detailed emergency response information on molten sulfur was lacking due to the fact that sulfur was not regulated as a hazardous material
  • There was some delay in responding to the incident due to traffic and limited access to the bridge
  • There was difficulty in confirming the nature of the cargo
  • Visibility at the accident site was severely limited due to dense vapors of sulfur dioxide and due to fog

NFPA members can read the full investigation report.