My mother can attest to the fact that I hate writing letters but I feel that I need to respond to Chris Keating’s letter concerning the recent propane truck accident. Granted Mr. Keating’s experience and education (Ph.D. in Physics) certainly surpasses my years as an agriculture teacher (M.Ed.) and sheep herder but I would like to clarify a few of the points that he touched upon.
Yes and no! The propane truck could and could not have been a bomb! Would you be willing to risk your life that the truck would not blow up? 9,000 gallons of liquid propane is no joke! As to our evacuation plan, the one-half mile radius is standard operating procedure for this type of event. The City Administrator and I sent our law enforcement personnel around to do “face to face” evacuation and he and I also went to homes, businesses, and every place we could to order them to evacuate the premises. It was not the most popular thing to do to close down Willow Creek or Santos or other businesses that depend upon the noon crowd to pay their bills but it was necessary.
Mr. Keating states that there were people milling around the truck, standing, and taking pictures. Yes, these people were the “first responders”. These folks were the firemen, law enforcement, county and city employees, TXDOT workers, the trucking firm owner and the wrecker crews from San Angelo that are trained to handle such a situation. If some of Mr. Keating’s “eyewitnesses” were not removed from the scene and were taking close-up pictures of the accident, it was because they walked up out of curiosity and were able to avoid our law enforcement. These people often mean well but they can create problems and they could have been charged with interfering with public servants during an emergency.
As for “better law enforcement preventing the wreck” I don’t know exactly how this might come about, but, be careful what you ask for! We hope we do not have to live in a town where law enforcement creates a negative atmosphere for drivers. We also hope that everyone obeys the speed limits and drives safely. As all of us can attest, there is an increased amount of truck traffic and extra wide and large loads that are coming through our town but we do not have the authority to regulate such traffic. The mayor has stated in his City Corner column that we have met with TXDOT officials and discussed methods of making the approaches to our town and square safer; such as adjusting speed limits, installing warning lights, and other ways to prevent future accidents.
Hindsight is usually much clearer than foresight, but in this instance, I know that the people involved in preventing a tragedy were organized and prepared. As far as “advance planning” is concerned, our Emergency Management Plan was followed to the letter and exercises that we have conducted help our emergency responders be better prepared for this type of accident. Town was evacuated and traffic was rerouted immediately. Mason Volunteer Fire Department personnel, DPS, county, city, and TXDOT people did an outstanding job handling a serious situation while their very lives were on the line and we should be positive and not negative about the outcome of the event. The Lord looked over Mason and answered our prayers. If Mr. Keating is really concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Mason, he is more than welcome to join, assist, or donate to our local fire departments, EMS, and other services we are fortunate to have here in Mason.
Like Gerald says though, “it is just my opinion”!
Mason County Judge