One dead after tractor trailer veers off road, crashes into parked railcars

Courtesy Portland Fire and Rescue

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A tractor trailer driver veered off the road, crashed into parked railcars and sparked a fire that sent plumes of black smoke seen miles away Sunday morning.

The driver, 41-year-old Andrew John Lambert, of Vancouver, died in the crash.

The collision was reported around 8:30 a.m. along Highway 30 and St. Helens Road, just south of St. Johns Bridge. Nearby businesses were evacuated, the highway was closed and a half-marathon race in the area was canceled as crews responded to the blaze.

Dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene from around Portland and nearby Vancouver.

When truck crashed, the gasoline it was carrying leaked underneath railroad tanker cars parked on the tracks, which run parallel to the highway, said Terry Foster, a spokesman for Portland Fire & Rescue.

The fuel ignited, burning eight rail cars, but none of the liquid asphalt they contained leaked out, Foster said. "The semi truck appeared to have gone off the road and crashed into the parked rail cars," he said.

The affected rail line is a side track owned by Portland & Western Railroad. The P&W main line was not hit, and the company does not expect any customers to be affected, Mike Williams, a spokesman for parent company Genesee & Wyoming Inc., said in an email.

The tank cars "appear to have done their job in preventing any release," Williams said.

The BNSF main line, which carries 30 passenger and freight trains a day nearby, was not impacted, BNSF spokesman Gus Melanos said.

Neighbor Josh Golden said he was awakened by sirens. When they continued coming, he went outside and saw large plumes of black smoke.

"You could see them just billowing up before the bridge," Golden said.

Highway 30 was completely reopened at the St. Johns Bridge just after midnight Sunday.

The fire did not affect air quality standards in the area.

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