A truck driver looking for a field to turn around in got a nasty surprise over the weekend when what he thought was a field turned out to be Lake Sakakawea instead.
The tanker broke through about 2 feet of ice in Dunn County near Fort Berthold, sinking partway into the lake. Pictures of the stalled tanker were circulated widely on Facebook by the group Bakken Fail of the Day.
The truck has since been removed, and does not appear to have leaked a significant amount of anything into the lake, according to North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality Spill Investigation Program Manager Bill Suess.
“From my understanding the trucker made a wrong turn, got lost, and was looking to turn around,” Suess told the Williston Herald. “He thought he was turning around in a bg field, and well, it was a big frozen lake.”
Suess said he was told the driver worked for Pale Horse Services out of Dickinson. The Bismarck Tribune reported the driver’s name as 60-year-old John Sohn of Portland, Oregon and said no citation was issued for the incident.
The tanker was empty at the time of the accident, Suess said, and has already been removed from the lake.
“There was no leakage at all,” Suess said. “Obviously there was some sheen from you know engine grease and oil and stuff like that, but I don’t see anything major.”
The location is near a water intake for the MHA Nation, Suess said.
“We are sampling that, just as a precautionary measure,” he said. “I don’t anticipate they will (find anything of concern). That water intake is within Skunk Bay but is upstream of it.”
Suess has an employee on site attempting to take a sample from the location where the truck went in, if it can be safely done. The Tribe and EPA, meanwhile, are handling the overall incident.
While it is not necessarily unusual for vehicles to break through ice during ice-fishing season, it’s the first time Suess recalls a tanker truck doing so.
Fortunately, the driver was not hurt, Suess said, adding, “Looks like he sank pretty gently. He just got a little bogged down.”