ATLANTA – The tractor trailer that overturned Monday morning and caused a chemical spill was not supposed to be on the downtown connector.
“The truck was supposed to have been using I-285,” said Atlanta police spokesman Warren Pickard. “The driver was violating the law, and it’s especially important now, at this critical point in our city, that people understand how important our highways are to our daily functions.”
Police said the truck, driven by Matthew Bowden, collided around 2 am with an Acura that was headed northbound on the I-75/85 connector. Mitchell Epstein, who was behind the wheel of the Acura, was driving on a suspended license, and police said he attempted to leave the accident scene on foot but was soon apprehended.
The truck immediately overturned and spilled gallons of benzoyl chloride near the 10th Street exit.
Toxic chemical spill blocking downtown connector in both directions
“Our fire department and other responders did a great job of containing the scene and kept the chemical from spreading,” Pickard said. According to the Georgia DOT, the chemical has an irritating odor but is not considered to be life-threatening.
“Both drivers contributed to the accident,” Pickard said. Bowden was in route to Rome, Ga., to deliver the chemical.
“Our ordinances do not allow a vehicle like that to travel through city limits,” Pickard said. “He has been given a citation and will have to pay a fine that will be determined by a judge."
According to the police report, the truck's registered owner is Dickey Truck Leasing out of Savannah, Ga.
"It’s especially important now for us to send a message that we cannot have vehicles like this that are travelling through our city improperly,” Pickard said.
The citation, according to Pickard, carries a criminal charge and a judge can order Bowden arrested.
“The judge has some latitude to determine how severe the fine is,” Pickard said. “It’s too early to determine if the driver will be detained.”
Pickard said companies that own tractor trailers that make deliveries containing hazardous materials within city limits are required to notify authorities and receive a permit.
Epstein, the driver of the Acura, was also cited with improper stopping in a roadway. Both Epstein and Bowden were transported to Grady.