Authorities say suicide attempt caused tanker blaze

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 2, 2013 

A man’s suicide attempt caused a tanker truck accident Friday night that set off a massive fire and shut down part of Interstate 475 for several hours, authorities say.

The accident happened at about 11 p.m. when a vehicle rammed into the side of a fuel tanker exiting the interstate onto Thomaston Road.

Lt. Sean DeFoe, Bibb County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Nicholas Deonte Owens, 26, of Macon, told deputies at the scene that he drove his 2006 Volvo station wagon into the side of the tanker because he wanted to end his life. The wreck caused the tanker to burst into flames, which lasted for several hours. DeFoe said the glow could be seen from at least a mile away.

The driver of the tanker truck was unharmed. Owens suffered burned legs, but DeFoe said he walked to the interstate bridge with plans of jumping off until two Macon police officers who happened to be in the area arrived and pulled him down.

The tanker driver, Bryon Cummings of Macon, had just loaded the truck with 7,500 gallons of gas and 500 gallons of diesel fuel and was out to make deliveries. As he exited the interstate, Owens was heading east on Thomaston Road when he saw the truck exiting. DeFoe said Owens accelerated, drove over a curve and plowed into it. Owens told deputies he was upset after an argument with his wife earlier in the evening.

The tanker burst into flames and then a series of explosions ensued, DeFoe said.

“It was quite an event out there last night.”

As the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department battled the blaze, civilian volunteers with the REACT team were called in to assist with detouring traffic.

Repair work was continuing Saturday afternoon, and traffic was still slow on the interstate.

Owens was taken to The Medical Center of Central Georgia, where he was listed in stable condition before being transferred to the Augusta burn center.

The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the accident.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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