Hidden Ike accident finally surfaces
One might think it strange: a 40- to 50-foot petroleum tanker that washed up on an island near Cow Bayou.
To Derek Eades of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, it was a bit unusual.
But not that uncommon.
“We found all kinds of stuff after Hurricane Ike,” says Eades, waste and emergency response manager with the commission’s Beaumont office.
“In the months after [the storm], the TCEQ and other state emergency response agencies identified and removed over 94,000 containers, barrels, tanks etc. from the storm surge areas of Orange, Jefferson, Chambers and Galveston counties.”
What made this wash-up a mystery was that it took so long – and a routine marsh fire – to find the lost wreckage.
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Craig Simmons of Bridge City’s Victory Gardens section saw the fire this past Thursday and reported it to area authorities.
“I mostly don’t think anything of a marsh fire,” he says. “This is the time of year the cattle people are burning stuff off everything.”
He reported the fire, he says, because it had a “weird, different kind of smoke coming up.”
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Investigators with the General Land Office determined the tanker had been there since Ike, or its early aftermath almost 18 months ago.
No evidence of environmental impact was detected, Eades says.
“[Apparently] storm surge left the tanker on the island, possibly covered with vegetation and other debris making it invisible from the air or water,” he says.
“The investigation is still ongoing, however, the TCEQ is working with the tanker owners, Duphil General Contractors to have the remaining debris removed and any potential spilled material cleaned up to prevent possible soil or water contamination.”
The fire reduced the tanker to a small section of an empty shell – and melted all but a few of the rear tires, Eades says.
The license plate was readable, leading investigators to Duphil.
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Simmons and his wife Kathy are still making repairs on their home.
They never needed a FEMA unit, and took up residence in a garage apartment untouched by the Sept. 13, 2008, storm surge. They didn’t escape incident, however.
“We had a 65-foot telephone poll try to come through our house,” Simmons says.
The island – and site of the tanker’s final destination – doesn’t have a name, he says.