Deadly Truck Explosion Leaves 15-Foot-Deep Hole in Federal Highway

March 28, 2019 Updated: March 28, 2019

A truck carrying a highly flammable chemical has exploded, killing the driver and leaving a massive crater in the middle of a federal highway in southern Arkansas.

Blann Trucking Company Truck Driver Randall McDougal was traveling along U.S. Highway 278, west of Camden near the Arkansas Highway 57, on March 27 when he noticed his brakes were on fire.

McDougal, 63, of El Dorado reportedly contacted the area fire department about 6:40 a.m. local time to report that the truck brakes on the commercial carrier truck he was driving were on fire. He informed the department that he would try to extinguish the blaze.

When the first fire department personnel arrived on the scene, they started to evacuate nearby residents from the area. They said they witnessed McDougal return to the truck just before the vehicle exploded.

The truck was carrying ammonium nitrate, a chemical widely used in fertilizer, on the 88-mile journey west from El Dorado to Texarkana.

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, ammonium nitrate is reactive and a dangerous explosion hazard.

“High levels may cause methemoglobinemia with headache, fatigue, and a blue color to the skin and lips,” the department warned in a hazardous substance publication. “Inhaling ammonium nitrate can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs.”

Arkansas State Police confirmed that they had located what was left of McDougal.

“Remains of an individual suspected to be those of Randall McDougal, 63, of El Dorado, have been recovered from the site,” the police said in a press release dated March 27. “The Arkansas State Police has requested the human remains to be examined for positive identification by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory.”

Authorities responded to reports of the explosion about 7:05 a.m. by shutting down the highway indefinitely.

“The roadway remains closed as the result of a large hole caused by the explosion that stretches across the highway,” police said.

According to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, one person died in the explosion. The blast also destroyed two police cruisers and left two officers with minor injuries.

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (R) extended his condolences to all people affected by the blast.

“My thoughts & prayers go out to all affected, especially the family of the victim killed in the tragic explosion near Camden,” he said in a Twitter post dated March 27. “Please keep our first responders in your prayers as they work to contain this incident.”

Union County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sgt. Erick Meadows said the explosion left a big hole in the middle of Highway 278. The department of transportation estimated the crater measured about 15 feet deep, according to CDLLife.

There have been reports the force of the explosion could be felt up to 60 miles away.

Highway 278, Highway 57, and Highway 24 were closed while police searched the scene.

An investigation continues.