Vienna fire deals with dangers during propane truck crash

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 6/22/22

VIENNA — The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department responded to a dangerous accident last Friday afternoon when a propane truck had an accident and was leaking diesel fuel and propane.

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Vienna fire deals with dangers during propane truck crash

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VIENNA — The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department responded to a dangerous accident last Friday afternoon when a propane truck had an accident and was leaking diesel fuel and propane.

The accident occurred at 2 p.m. on Highway T, about three miles north of Highway 42 in Maries County, when a northbound 2022 Peterbilt truck, driven by Dale A. Reinkemeyer, 60, of Bonnots Mill, failed to negotiate a curve, traveled off the right side of the roadway, returned to the roadway, crossed the center of the roadway and overturned, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported. The vehicle caught on fire then traveled off the left side of the roadway and struck several trees. Reinkemeyer received moderate injuries in the accident and was transported by Dixon Ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City. The truck received total damage.

Vienna Fire Department Fire Chief Mike Smith said it was a dangerous situation with the firemen having to deal with several things going on at one time. The truck had skidded down the highway and caused sparks and there was fire in the ditch as the diesel fuel and propane were leaking. The driver, Mr. Reinkemeyer was trapped in the truck and the first people who responded to the accident took action to get the driver out of the truck. 

Vienna Fire District Station 2 was first on the scene and Argyle Fire was requested and responded for mutual aid. Smith said the truck had rolled several times but landed on its wheels in the trees. There were spot fires on both sides of the highway and fire from a low-pressure propane leak at the back of the delivery truck.  

Neighbors near the accident location heard the crash and had tried to help the driver but were unable to get the door to the cab open. The driver let them know where was a fire extinguisher behind the cab and one of the neighbors found a fire extinguisher that had fallen from the rolling truck. The extinguisher’s handles had been destroyed and he used a rock to strike the top value of the extinguisher, causing it to deploy and they were able to put out the truck fire as the arriving firemen were gearing up to extricate the driver. 

Fireman Jayden Backues was able to pop the driver’s door with the Jaws of Life. The next arriving units started spraying the truck and rescuers with water to keep it cool, to eliminate any possible sparking, and to dissipate the leaking propane and diesel fuel. With the door open, the driver was quickly removed by the firemen and Maries-Osage Ambulance District personnel. 

The firemen continued to contain or stop the leaking fuel and propane and to monitor the truck until technicians from the company could arrive to cap the propane. Smith said Highway T was closed for about four hours to keep the exposure to the area to a minimum. The truck was removed form the scene on a low-boy trailer with the use of a semi-wrecker with boom from Kendall’s Towing and Recovery. 

Smith said the situation was dangerous and could have been much worse if not for a few key points. The situation is a testament to the stringent specifications and safety features of which the propane delivery trucks are built and maintained.  For even after the violent crash the vehicle went through, the main tank and valve systems were intact and leakage was minimal and able to be controlled. 

Smith said the continued community support and willingness of the neighbors to take action and get involved to help one another and the fire department is appreciated. He said thanks to Stacie Hollis of Highway T, who made first contact with the driver while the truck was on fire and helped direct traffic during the extended incident. He also thanked Randall Humphrey for his action to try to assist the driver and for his thinking outside of the box to use a damaged fire extinguisher to put the vehicle fire out. All of this help was greatly appreciated by all involved. 

Vienna Fire’s continued mutual aid work with neighboring departments and agencies also played a role. Argyle Fire responded quickly and setup traffic control, helped with water support and assisted with leak management. MOAD not only assisted with extrication and patient care, but they returned to the scene to monitor the wellbeing of the firefighters and bring additional fluids for the firefighters. Dixon Ambulance responded and provided ALS care and transport for the injured driver. 

Lastly, Smith said the training and work of the firefighters, especially the newest and youngest firefighters, contributed to the good outcome. 

“We depend on our training to prepare us to respond, allow us to protect the people and property we serve, and keep ourselves safe and headed home to our families at the end of the call,” Smith said. “We are extremely proud of all our firefighters and the teamwork that was needed for this call to have a safe outcome. These individuals have been training in all kinds of situations lately, and for one of them he used the exact training he received only days earlier to not just once, but twice rescue someone from a motor vehicle in the span of three days. We would like to commend Jayden Backues for his exemplary training efforts and his work with the extrication tools lately. Your work to open the door of the truck under pressure was simply flawless.” 

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