Truck Laden With Toxic Rocket Fuel Breaks Down on Road to Vandenberg

United Press International

Military shipments of a highly toxic rocket fuel were delayed several hours when one of the trucks broke down along a route used to avoid populous Los Angeles, authorities said Thursday.

“We had some problems with it,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Frank Stricker, whose agency helps provide security for the Air Force shipments.

One of two trucks carrying highly toxic nitrogen tetroxide from Vicksburg, Miss., to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County was stopped by an engine breakdown on U.S. 101 about a mile south of San Luis Obispo at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, CHP Lt. Joe Humphrey said.

The truck was towed off the highway about 200 miles north of Los Angeles and sat on a frontage road near a farmhouse for about three hours, authorities said. There were no injuries or leaks of the volatile cargo.


However, some engine parts that fell from the crippled truck punctured the tire of a third truck not involved in the military shipment, causing that truck to pull over to change a flat tire, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the second fuel-hauling truck continued on, unloading at Vandenberg at 8 p.m. Wednesday. It returned and took on the load of the disabled truck about 10 p.m., hauling it to the base without further incident. Each truck carried 39,000 pounds of the liquid chemical.

Humphrey downplayed the engine breakdown, calling it “a very routine incident.”