Posted on March 28, 2019
El Dorado man killed in blast
Compiled by News-Times staff from Camden News and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports
An El Dorado man driving a truck hauling fertilizer chemicals was killed when the truck’s wheels caught fire and it exploded in Ouachita County early Wednesday morning, causing a boom that was heard for miles and prompting an evacuation of the surrounding area, authorities said.
According to Arkansas State Police, Randall McDougal, 63, of El Dorado, was killed in the blast that occurred along Ouachita 57/U.S.
278. McDougal was employed by Blann Trucking Company of Hampton, the owner of the vehicle that was carrying ammonium nitrate — a highly combustible chemical used in fertilizers — from El Dorado to Texarkana.
Three Camden firefighters also were injured from the blast and taken to the hospital. Two were later released, said Melody Daniel, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
Area fire department personnel were notified about 6:40 a.m.
Wednesday that the truck brakes of the commercial carrier truck believed to be driven by McDougal were on fire. According to state police, McDougal was attempting to extinguish the blaze when the truck exploded, killing him.
The body was sent to the state Crime Laboratory to confirm the identity.
Fire officials on scene quickly began to evacuate residents in the area and reportedly witnessed McDougal return to the truck when it exploded.
Ouachita County Sheriff David Norwood said the driver had noticed that he was having trouble with one of the tires on the vehicle. He said the driver noticed that the tire “had caught fire” and a Ouachita County Sheriff’s Department deputy was in the area after the driver pulled over to check on the wheel.
Daniel said officials haven’t determined what caused the tires to catch fire.
The amount of time between the driver noticing the tire trouble and the actual blast is not yet known.
Norwood said that when the explosion occurred, the windows of the deputy’s vehicle, which was several feet from the blast, were shattered.
Some residents close to the site reported that their houses shook with the blast, and two people reported that they felt their homes lift, then fall back to the ground. A Camden News reporter at the scene said residents who gathered as close to the site as possible noted that one mobile home was severely damaged due to the blast.
People reported hearing the boom from miles away, with the blast even registering as seismic activity.
“It looks like a bomb went off,” Camden Fire Chief Robert Medford said. “There’s a big hole in the ground on where the truck was at.”
Capt. Adam LaDuke with the Ouachita County Sheriff’s Department said crews extinguished most of the fire by mid-morning.
Emergency responders withdrew to roughly a mile away to evacuate homes and other buildings and later returned to clear the scene, he said.
Camden Fire Department Assistant Chief Ron Nash said the force of the blast tore the tops of the surrounding pine trees. He said the shockwaves shattered the windshield of a fire truck and a Camden Fairview School District bus.
The bus driver tried turning the vehicle around when the explosion happened, said district Superintendent Mark Keith. No children were on board, and the driver was uninjured.
The boom registered on the Arkansas Geological Survey’s system used to track earthquakes, showing a spike at a nearby recording station that tracks earthquakes.
“I would say, without looking at (the data), it’s most likely the blast,” said Assistant State Geologist Scott Ausbrooks, adding that it’s “not unusual” for large blasts to register as seismic activity.
A station at White Oaks Lake, about 12 miles north of the crash, recorded the spike. After the blast, residents within Ouachita County and from El Dorado, Magnolia, Holly Springs and Haynesville, Louisiana, reported feeling the effects of the explosion.
County officials remained at the scene and were relaying information to the state Department of Emergency Management, Daniel said. Stephens Fire Department was also on the scene.
Officials haven’t noted any other injuries as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Officials said it will be at least a week before that area of the roadway is re-opened.