ATLANTA - A toxic chemical spill caused all lanes of the Downtown Connector to shut down early Monday, resulting in major delays during the morning rush hour.
Officials told FOX 5 a substance, identified as benzoyl chloride, started leaking from a container being carried in a big rig after the truck collided with an SUV and losing control. It happened as the vehicles were traveling north on Interstates 75/85 just after North Avenue around 2 a.m. Monday. The accident forced all lanes of traffic to shut down for several hours.
"For whatever reason, the Acura came to a stop causing the collision,” said Sgt. Warren Pickard, Atlanta Police Department.
According to fire officials, the two drivers involved in the wreck both suffered minor injuries. Hazardous materials crews carefully righted the truck and Atlanta Fire responded with their Foam Unit to spray the substance that leaked from the truck. The truck was removed from the scene, allowing southbound lanes to reopen, but northbound traffic remained closed as hazmat crews continued to clean up the mess. The northbound lanes reopened just before 7:30 a.m., more than five hours after the wreck happened.
Police said the driver was traveling from Savannah to Rome, where he was going to deliver that chemical, but police said he did not have a permit to be inside the perimeter and he never should have been there in the first place.
Sgt. Pickard said both drivers are at fault. The driver of the SUV, identified as Mitchell Espstein, was driving on a suspended license and police said he should not have been on the road. Epstein tried to leave the scene shortly after the accident, according to officers.
Investigators said the driver of the big rig, identified as Matthew Bowden, either did not know about the restriction of tractor trailers through the city or ignored the rule.
“To us it doesn't matter. Ignorance is no excuse for violating the law. We cannot have especially at the critical point we're in now in our city. We cannot have these types of accidents on our highway,” said Sgt. Pickard.
Police said only tractor trailers with permits or business within the city are allowed on the connector.
“They're allowed to go to that destination and immediately leave. But that would be announced ahead of time. We have notice and they would have a permit to be making that type of travel,” said Sgt. Pickard.
It is unclear if the hauling company will be fined.