Tanker Driver Says It’s ‘A Miracle’ He Survived Massive Fuel Spill Crash

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The driver of a tanker that crashed and spilled thousands of gallons of fuel at Port Everglades says he’s feeling very lucky.

Jean Nicolas had just picked up fuel in a tanker owned by MGM Transport and was leaving the port when it crashed just before midnight.

Nicolas – who was taken to the hospital for some bumps, bruises and cuts – is happy to be alive after crawling out of the wreck.

“Thank God, it was a miracle. Those doors were locked, I couldn’t get out,” Nicolas explained. “So finally the window from the back of the truck, I kick it with my feet – that’s how I got out.”

After breaking out the back window, Nicolas got as far away as he could.

He was afraid it would blow. Instead nearly all of the gas leaked out.

“When that truck rolled, apparently there was a puncture in the tank at that point,” said Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesperson Mike Jachles. “When the truck ended up upside down, that hole that was on the top was on the bottom. That’s the worst place you want to have a leak is at the bottom of the tank.”

Officials say a tanker, owned by MGM Transport, had picked up fuel and was leaving the port when it crashed just before midnight. (Source: CBS4)

Officials say a tanker, owned by MGM Transport, had picked up fuel and was leaving the port when it crashed just before midnight. (Source: CBS4)

The crash prompted nearly 9,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel to spill, making its way into the storm drain and into the Inner Coastal waterway.

Crews used foam to cover the spill and keep it from igniting or spreading. From the air the size of the spill is impressive. You can see the foam the fire department used as protection.

“We’ve laid down blankets of foam. We’ve shored up the tanker and grounded it,” said Frank Correggio with Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue.

About sixteen fire departments and 50 fire rescue personnel responded to the scene along with a local company that’s helping in the cleanup.

The tanker was holding about 6,700 gallons of gasoline and 2,100 gallons of diesel at the time of the accident, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Crews cut holes in the tank to remove it what was left after the spill.

Despite their efforts, much of that fuel mixed with asphalt and went right down the storm drain then ended up spewing into the water.

“That’s actual oil you’re seeing there, gas and diesel, motor oil. Everything that was in the truck went down the drain, across the street,” said Jon Hines of CBI.

There are two major concerns about the spill – the fact it could ignite and the environment.

“I haven’t gotten the first-hand view of exactly how much impact there is to soil so it’s hard to say. We are able to recover the fuel that’s in the storm drains because they are contained. That’s a benefit and we really don’t know what the impact is to the soil until we remove the damaged tanker and we clean the street,” said CEO of CBI Cliff Barry.

The U.S. Coast Guard put a boom in the water to keep the fuel from spreading. Meantime, wildlife officials are out on the water looking for sea life and trying to move them out of the area as clean up on the water continues.

So far, no sign of troubled manatees or sea turtles. One thing working in favor of environmental teams is the weather.

“You can see it’s a windy day, so there’s white caps here in the harbor which makes it a little more difficult to contend with,” Hines said. “But fortunately it’s keeping it up here in the corner for us to work shore side and not have to do everything by boat.”

The port remained open and operations were not affected, except for Terminal 18. That’s where Celebrity Equinox is docked but the ship is not back yet. When it docks, it will be directed to Port 25.

Authorities advise anyone heading to the port to use I-595.

The cause of the crash is currently under investigation, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

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