Back-to-back crashes with missiles and ammunition : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Back-to-back crashes with missiles and ammunition WASHINGTON (AP) --Two trucks hauling weapons for the military -- including a load of Navy missiles -- crashed within 14 hours, raising new concerns about a system that makes 42,000 ammunition deliveries a year.

The Army's Military Traffic Management Command, which oversees the shipments, had already tightened security not only because of the September 11 terrorist attacks but also in response to a report that criticized security lapses, spokesman John Randt said.

On Friday, a flatbed tractor-trailer carrying eight Navy missiles outside Frederick, Maryland, hit a concrete barrier, slid down an embankment and overturned. No one was hurt, but the driver, 49-year-old Danny L. Harkey of Joplin, Missouri, was charged with negligent driving, Randt said.

Thursday night, a truck carrying 42,000 pounds of explosives used to fire 155mm artillery shells crashed in West Virginia. Officials said the driver of that truck lost control during a coughing fit after a sip of coffee.

Authorities evacuated surrounding areas and called in special military explosives disposal teams after the two crashes.

Both trucks were operated by Tri-State Motor Transit, a Missouri-based company that's one of the largest haulers of ammunition and other hazardous cargo for the federal government.

"We have a very good safety record, but we didn't have a very good day today, that's for sure," company vice president Ralph Nelson said Friday.

The traffic command oversees shipments of all kinds of weapons from missiles to 9mm handgun ammunition, Randt said. Most shipments are handled by private companies like Tri-State.

The command oversees some 42,000 shipments throughout the country each year, averaging only about one reportable crash per month, Randt said.

"We have stellar results," Randt said. "The incidents are very modest -- I would say nominal."

The trucking companies must comply with safety and security regulations, such as having two drivers in the truck to keep each other awake and alert, Randt said. Only shipments of "Risk One" material -- missiles -- require a security escort in another vehicle, Randt said.

Army officials said the Maryland truck was carrying eight SLAM-ER missiles from St. Louis to New Jersey.

The Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response is a high-tech, jet-powered missile launched from planes. It has a range of more than 170 miles and can fly at nearly the speed of sound. The missile is among the weapons the United States could use to attack terrorist sites in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The missiles were covered with a tarp and strapped to the flatbed trailer. They were not armed and did not explode in the crash.

At more than $500,000 each, the missiles on the truck were worth more than $4 million.

Despite all the safety assurances, some public officials are nervous. Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening visited the crash scene Friday and said he was upset that neither the Defense Department nor Tri-State notified state officials about the missile shipment.

"As soon as the materiel is moved I'm going to ask in the strongest terms why we weren't notified," Glendening said.

The Department of Defense is required to notify states when radioactive or chemical warfare materials are being transported across their borders, Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill said. The state was not notified of the shipment because it did not involve those materials, he said.

Tri-State is also a major hauler of radioactive waste from Energy Department facilities to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project repository near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Last year, the company was suspended for two months from such shipments after drivers missed a turn on the way to the dump and went 27 miles in the wrong direction.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 06, 2001


Thursday night, a truck carrying 42,000 pounds of explosives used to fire 155mm artillery shells crashed in West Virginia. Officials said the driver of that truck lost control during a coughing fit after a sip of coffee.

Let me see; if that was a government employee, then faster than you can say, fibber mcghee, the government would make it illegal to drink coffee and drive at the same time.

-- Guy Daley (, October 06, 2001.

Your right about the coffee law. However, they government would still be pushing amnesty for millions of illegal aliens w/o any idea who we have in here.

-- K (, October 06, 2001.

Here in New Hampshire, it's already illegal to drink *anything* and drive at the same time -- though I don't know if there has ever been any enforcement of that law. My husband drinks coffee while he's driving, and has never been stopped for it.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, October 06, 2001.

Tri State has been hauling explosives for many many years. This is very usual when this company has this many accidents. I think ICC regulations require the driver to have both hands on the wheel but how do you enforce a regulation like this.

-- David Williams (, October 06, 2001.

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