A construction truck’s trailer and its cargo — a hydraulic double steel-faced roller — tipped over at the intersection of South Adams Avenue and East Wells Avenue in Pierre around 4:45 p.m. on June 5.
The truck had been turning onto Adams from Wells when it tipped, throwing the roller into the northeastern curb of the intersection. Both vehicles belonged to Morris Inc., a Fort Pierre-based construction firm. The vehicles were on their way to help pave city streets on the north side of town when they tipped, Morris Inc. owner John Morris said. Neither he nor the police offered comment on what repercussions, if any, the driver of the truck may face for their role in the incident.
Morris said he wasn’t even sure how the vehicles tipped over.
“We’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened,” Morris said. “Not 100 percent sure this time.”
Jan Miller, a Pierre resident who lives near the Adams / Wells intersection and came to watch the hubbub, said he had worked in construction for over 45 years. He said there were only a few ways the vehicles could have ended up in their lopsided predicament.
“The only way I see [the driver] could have done that is if he was taking that turn too fast... maybe too sharp,” he said.
Leon Ellis, a captain with the Pierre Fire Department who responded to the scene, also hypothesized that the water tank in the roller may have been off-balance. It may have added momentum to the truck’s turn and contributed to the trailer’s tumble.
The tipped vehicles effectively closed the Adams / Wells Intersection with their bulk; the Pierre Fire Department made the closure official when they arrived at the scene just before 5 p.m.. They and the Pierre Police Department set up cones to block off the intersection and condensed westbound traffic on Wells into a single lane. This was just fine for many drivers passing by, who slowed down to photograph and videotape the strange sight.
Ellis said the Fire Department’s primary worry was that gasoline from the tipped vehicles might leak into the sewers. They had collapsed directly on top of a storm drain.
“Fuel [leakage] was our main concern… but it looks like it’s just some hydraulic fluid...” Ellis said, gesturing to the bluish liquid pooling beneath the upturned trailer. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Volunteer firefighters covered the leaking fluid with absorbent sand, but even with the danger of fuel leakage negated, getting the multi-ton trailer and roller out of the road was still “top priority,” Morris said. Doing so required the use of additional heavy machinery — a large wheel loader, specifically. First the roller was unchained from the trailer — it had managed to stay chained down, even on its side — then the trailer was righted with wedges under its tires and a strong pull from the loader’s arm.
Next, the roller was uprighted by connecting chains from the top of the loader bucket to the sides of the sideways-up roller. By accelerating in reverse, the loader managed to pull the roller onto its wheels like a lever pulling a weight over a fulcrum. Prior to this, Morris workers lined tires under where the loader’s wheels would land, so as to protect the concrete and soften the expensive machine’s landing.
“It’s a trick; unfortunately I’ve been in this position before with my dad,” said Morris. “He taught me, ‘don’t do any more damage than has already been done.’”
The whole ordeal lasted about an hour, during which time crowds gathered along Adams and Wells to watch events unfold. When the loader was finally righted right around 6 p.m., some onlookers burst into cheers and applause. Shortly after 6, the Fire Department gave the all-clear and headed home after re-opening westbound Wells’ closed right lane. The police left soon after, leaving only the Morris employees to finish cleaning dirt off the road and out of the roller’s wheels.
“That’s their job; that’s for the Morris guys to get,” Ellis said of the small pile of detritus the tipped roller had kicked up as it collapsed onto the road and grassy curb.
Despite the trailer and roller’s tumble, and despite the water that gushed out of the hydraulic roller’s water tank after it was righted, both were able to drive away from the incident relatively unscathed.
“[The roller] looks like it’s in usable condition,” Morris said. “We checked everything over and we were able to drive it off-site.”
Even more fortunate, no one was injured in the incident, Morris and the fire department said. One of Morris’ employees did complain of mud getting on his jeans.
“Well, at least it looks like you worked today,” Morris said.