More details released in Sawyer tanker explosion

By: Katherine Rufener Email
By: Katherine Rufener Email

Chikaming Township officials have released more details about a tanker that exploded Thursday night in Sawyer, Michigan.

Police also released dramatic video from a patrol car dash camera that shows the tanker exploding. Watch NewsCenter 16 tonight at 5:30 to see that video for yourself.

Thursday evening, the driver of the tanker had pulled over at the TA travel lodge for dinner, but noticed vapors come from the tanker when he returned.

Officers were called out, and employees at the travel lodge were evacuated.

Soon later the tanker exploded, sending shards of metal flying into the air.

Amazingly, no one was seriously hurt.

Chikaming Township Fire Chief Mike Davidson confirmed to NewsCenter 16 that the tanker was heading from Illinois to Canada and was carrying a substance of combined water and sodium hydroxide.

The substance is highly corrosive. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is used to make paper, soap and drain cleaner.

The tanker was aluminum. Davidson said he cannot say whether that was a safe container to be transporting the substance, but said the matter is under investigation.

He did explain how the tanker exploded, stating that the problem started with a compromised weld joint, and got worse from there. "The tank was not properly venting itself, and it built up pressure inside of the tank to the point where the leak did expand itself and started to hiss and with all the pressure it built up, it finally exploded," Davidson said.

Haz-mat crews soaked up the chemical using sand, but some still got into drains.

Because of this, the Warren Dunes were closed Friday, with waters showing altered PH levels. Those levels have since returned to normal, and officials say there is no risk to the public. EAP officials will continue to monitor those levels through Monday.

One firefighter at the scene of the explosion was treated for minor chemical burns to his face, but has since recovered.

Remember to watch NewsCenter 16 starting at 5:30 to see the dramatic explosion video.

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