Highway 1 near Jenner open following tanker crash, fuel spill (w/video)

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Highway 1 near Jenner reopened at about 4 a.m. Monday after having been closed about 20 hours due to a gasoline tanker crash.

The CHP Monday said drivers now can get through but that they’ll faced one-way, controlled traffic while crews removed contaminated soil from the area.

A gasoline tanker caught its wheels off the edge of the narrow coast highway and overturned north of Jenner at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday, shutting down the highway and spilling more than 1,000 gallons of fuel, some of which reached the ocean.

Wildlife officials and emergency crews were at the crash scene throughout the day trying to mitigate the situation and prevent gasoline from spreading beyond the crash scene north of town.

But with rain pouring down on the area and a tentative spill estimate of 1,200 gallons, some fuel made it down the cliff to the sea, authorities said.

“There is fuel in the ocean,” California Fish & Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan said, “but we have no reasonable idea how much.”

The double-tank transport truck, owned by Nick Barbieri Trucking, was headed uphill, northbound out of Jenner, when it drifted near the edge of the road and some of the tires got caught off the edge, emergency personnel said.

The driver, Terry Lippolis, of Grants Pass, Ore., corrected enough to keep the cab on the road, but the trailer apparently twisted and whiplashed, causing the entire rig to overturn, the CHP said.

The trailer flipped off the highway and landed on an embankment, rupturing the rear tank, officials said.

Lippolis, 58, was able to climb out of a window and suffered minor injuries. He was taken to Sutter Santa Rosa Medical Center for treatment, CHP Lt. Jeff Rhea said.

The tanker was fully loaded, with 8,800 gallons between the two tanks, and began spilling fuel across the road and into a culvert that channeled more gas under the highway and out to the edge of a high cliff above the water, authorities said.

Muñiz Ranch resident Don Paul, who came down to the highway to investigate after hearing emergency radio traffic about the crash on his scanner, said the crash occurred right near a gulch leading down to the beach and the ocean.

From 50 yards away, he said, the spill seemed large, its odor “very strong.”

He described Monte Rio firefighters and other emergency personnel “working really hard” in the rain to dam the spill and divert it.

But some portion of the spilled fuel headed downhill toward the ocean, Hughan said, and between the wet conditions, wind-whipped surf and the steep, rocky cliff there was little that could be done to stop it.

Some of the fuel remained in the rear tank and the front tank was not compromised, so additional tankers and equipment were sent to the scene to offload the fuel in order that the wreckage could be moved, authorities said.

Jenner resident David Kenly said the incident would help fuel his campaign to persuade Caltrans to do something about the narrow highway and the excessive speed with which most motorists approach town, causing accidents.

A tanker hauling asphalt sealant dumped its load last June after striking a highway bridge over Russian Gulch and overturning a short distance away, he noted.

In January 2010, another oil tanker slipped a wheel off the roadway and overturned south of town, closing the road for 14 hours while the fuel was off-loaded.

“All I can really say is that there’s a pattern that is showing here that may be something that Caltrans may need to take a look at,” Kenly said. Hughan said biologists and other Fish and Wildlife personnel were on the coast Sunday assessing the impact to wildlife and the environment, and evaluating cleanup strategies

Sonoma and Napa county hazardous materials teams also were dispatched to the site, and Rhea said the cleanup could continue over days, depending on the volume of contaminated soil that will need to be dug up and hauled away.

CHP officials said the asphalt would be degraded by the gasoline and would need to be repaired or replaced, as well.

Coastal drivers Sunday were directed to a detour on Meyers Grade and Fort Ross roads through Cazadero, adding 35 to 40 minutes of driving time.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of David Kenly’s name.

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