Photos: Tanker Truck Goes Into the Columbia River Near The Dalles

Tanker truck in the water
Washington State Department of Ecology

Published Aug 27, 2023 8:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvors and emergency response agencies keep prepared contingency plans for tanker casualties, but a tanker truck casualty is a rare departure from the norm. That's exactly what environmental officials had to contend with in the Columbia River Gorge this weekend: for reasons under investigation, two semi trucks went into the river at the same location, several hours apart from each other. 

The incident occurred beginning at about 2100 hours Friday near the town of Biggs Junction, some 15 miles to the east of The Dalles. A Titan Freight Systems semi truck towing two dry van trailers was headed westbound when it went off the right side of the road and into the water. According to the Oregon State Police, the truck hit an abandoned car on the roadside before going off the bank. 

Hours later, early Saturday morning, a second truck towing two tank trailers went into the water at the same site. It struck an Oregon Department of Transportation response truck on its way over the side of the road; luckily the response truck was parked and empty at the time of the incident. Officials believe that the second tractor-trailer's driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, according to a local Fox News affiliate. 

All trailers were empty of cargo, and they all remained connected. Based on photos from the scene, the trailers had enough reserve buoyancy to suspend the trucks in the water column, without sinking to the bottom. 

Both drivers escaped alive, and no serious injuries were reported. The trucks will be salvaged from the water on Monday, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the highway will be temporarily shut down to give enough working room for the project.