EDITOR'S NOTE: In the course of putting together information on last week's accident, Mayor Brent Hinckley submitted his weekly column which did a great job of including the details of the wreck, while also recognizing the many people who responded to the situation. I decided to let his account suffice.
Some weeks around the City of Mason are pretty dull and uneventful, but then there are days that make up for it with a challenging event or activity that is anything but dull. Last week on Thursday we all expected a continuation of the hot summer days with as little activity as reasonable, but at 9:35 in the morning that changed dramatically when a large tanker truck full of propane flipped over and slid along the roadway on the east side of the Mason square. Several residents were witness to the accident, and thankfully no one was injured beyond the driver, but once we became aware of the dangerous cargo the County and City officials immediately took action.
A City employee, Brandon Neece, was present at the accident site and immediately began directing traffic away from the wreckage and Jay Tedder assisted the driver in getting out of the truck cab and away from the wreckage until emergency personnel could be summoned. As the people around the square became aware of the dangerous situation, it became imperative that citizens be evacuated from the immediate area, and I can only thank all of the nameless citizens who cooperated and assisted in getting out of the way and making everyone else aware of the danger so that they too could evacuate.
Because of the hazardous nature of the cargo and the small amount of leakage that was identified, we handled the situation as if we had a delicate 50,000 pound bomb sitting on the Square. With the help of our emergency coordinator Clyde Martin and our volunteer firemen, City and County employees, Sheriff’s deputies and Highway patrolmen, and TxDOT workers the highways and roads leading into the square were all promptly closed and all traffic was routed around the center of town. As the morning continued to heat up, we monitored the tanker and called in two oversize tow trucks from San Angelo, and continued to encourage the public to stay calm and move away from the danger zone around the square. The tanker was brought back upright about 2:30 and hooked to another truck cab and removed from the square about 3:15 in the afternoon, and although there were a few dangerous moments and some concerns about the small amount of leakage, there was no explosion and fire and Mason quieted down with a big sigh and a deep breath. Several years ago, a similar tanker was involved in a wreck in west Texas and blew up, and the explosion was felt five miles away and parts of the tanker were blown over 300 yards from the scene. If that had happened here, we would be mourning the loss of life and our historic square would have been radically changed forever. There are many, many people who should be recognized and thanked for their concerned and immediate response, but I do not have space or even a personal awareness of most of them. I want to particularly thank Judge Jerry Bearden and City Administrator John Palacio for their leadership role in directing the evacuation and monitoring the situation throughout the day and remaining in harm’s way if a more dangerous situation had developed. Thanks to the firemen and tow truck workers who stayed on the scene and took care of turning the tank back upright and being prepared for the worst. Thanks to the many City and County workers, and individuals like Cody Farmer, who helped direct traffic and keep the traffic redirected away from the danger zone throughout the hot afternoon. Thanks to all of the officials and businesses that dropped everything they were doing and changed their day’s plans to provide a level of safety and care for each other; people like Lewis Herrington who showed up minutes after the accident even though he was off duty, and spent the entire day on the corner of the square directing traffic and enforcing our evacuation. There were many people who contributed a little, and when it is all considered our community can be highly praised for acting and helping with the care and concern of neighbor for neighbor on what was a frighteningly dangerous day. In considering Emergency Preparedness, we had considered and practiced a hazardous materials accident on that exact corner of the square in previous exercises. Last Thursday our preparation and training was justified and our community demonstrated its willingness and capability to meet any emergency and act in the true sense of community that we know is the foundation of what it means to be a citizen of Mason. A heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to each and every person who was involved or inconvenienced by that accident, and I sincerely appreciate all that it means for Mason to be truly the best hometown in Texas.
There are a couple of on-going City issues that I need to also address now. We have completed the budget for the coming fiscal year and are continuing the care and responsibility of balancing the City finances and still providing for improvements in the services our citizens expect. This week I will file the budget with the City Secretary as required by state law, and anyone who would like to examine it or receive a copy can come by the City offices and ask. I will be explaining some parts of this budget in coming weeks, and there are some minor rate changes that will be considered by the Commission that I will also address, so if you have concerns please let your Commissioner know so that it can be discussed and considered before these are approved in September. Also, I need to repeat that the City swimming pool will be closed for regularly scheduled swims after August 18. Since we do not have lifeguards regularly available after that time, there is just one more full week for our children and adults to enjoy swimming in the City pool, but we are trying to schedule for some additional hours after school starts and to be available for scheduled parties on the weekends. If you have questions about the pool, or any other City service, please let us know and we will try to get an answer for you.
Mason is a great town, and I am grateful that last week did not mark a radical change in our hometown; I am pleased to call each of you “neighbor” and I look forward to continuing to work with you to make this a better community for us all.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hincklely