HOUSTON (FOX 26) - On the eastern edge of Harris County, a tractor trailer remains partially submerged in the San Jacinto River after bashing through a bridge guardrail and plummeting two and half stories beneath I-10 to the water in and around a notorious toxic waste dump.
“It appears the front of the truck is submerged in some silt, so its face down,” said Ed Gonzalez, Harris County sheriff.
Investigators say shortly before 4 a.m., the driver of the westbound 18-wheeler lost control of the rig after swerving to avoid a Chevy Cavalier damaged in a previous crash. In the aftermath, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez dispatched divers in search of the driver who remains missing.
“It’s very likely the driver is in the back of the truck and is most likely deceased,” said Gonzalez.
For the divers, this recovery effort represents extremely hazardous duty. The partially submerged San Jacinto River Waste pits contain an estimated quarter million tons of highly toxic dioxin waste and it’s still not known whether the impact damaged the protective cap or disrupted the cancer causing material stored on the site.
“The EPA has been in contact with first responders and those who are going to have go in the water are going to go through decontamination process before leaving this site because of how toxic this river right there is,” said Jackie Young, leader of Texas Health & Environment Alliance.
“It’s literally in or right adjacent to a Superfund site, so we are very concerned for our divers safety and other personnel we have down there,” said Gonzalez.
By mid-afternoon, the sheriff announced removal of the truck would have to wait at least another day until equipment and outside expertise can join the effort.