A truck driver was killed just west of Camden Wednesday morning, March 27 when his truck carrying ammonium nitrate exploded, causing a 15-feet deep crater in the road. The driver who Arkansas State Police believe is 63-year-old Randall McDougal of El Dorado, was driving on Highway 278 from El Dorado to Texarkana when the brakes reportedly caught fire.
McDougal called 911 around 6:40 a.m. Firefighters and deputies evacuated people nearby and about 20 minutes later, the truck exploded.
“I was like what in the world was that,” said Bridgett Evans who lives nearby and heard the explosion. “About two or three minutes later we just seen a big cloud of smoke.”
McDougal was killed at the scene. A friend and coworker of McDougal told THV11 he was married with one son and loved his job.
“It’s heart breaking, you know?” said Evans.
The three Camden firefighters that were there had minor injuries, but are OK.
PHOTOS: Truck explosion outside of Camden
“They had minor injuries, but it could have been a lot worse if those shrapnels would have hit our responders,” said Ouachita County Judge Robert McAdoo.
Pieces of the truck were found as far as 200 yards away and the explosion was heard as far as 75 miles away. It blew in windows at homes nearby and damaged a Camden fire engine, the fire chief’s truck and a sheriff’s office patrol car.
According to CBS affiliate KSLA, a home 300 yards from the explosion site sustained damaged ceilings and broken windows.
The homeowner, Maxine Bryant, said she was taking her grandchild to school when the explosion happened.
“We are just very blessed and very thankful that she wasn't here,” Bryant’s daughter Gailyn Parish told KSLA. “This can be repaired. My mother’s life is the most important thing for me.”
McDougal was employed by Blann Tractor Company of Hampton, which according to State Police, owned the tanker involved in Wednesday’s accident.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the U.S. trucking industry. Its most recent review of Blann Tractor Company in 2016 resulted in a “Satisfactory” safety rating for the company.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation spent Wednesday working to fill the hole. A crew plans to repave and reopen the road by the end of Thursday, March 28.