Fuel tanker plunges through Deline, N.W.T., ice road

The Deline, N.W.T., ice road is closed after a fuel tanker plunged through the ice near the community Saturday.

Driver escaped without injury, transportation department says

A fuel truck went through the ice on the Deline access road Saturday. (Environment and Natural Resources)

An ice road near Deline, N.W.T.  is closed after a fuel tanker plunged through on Saturday.

The territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources posted a photo to its Facebook page Saturday showing the truck partly submerged through a hole in the ice.

Ioana Spiridonica, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, said nobody was injured.

"We closed the crossing to all traffic immediately," she said.

The incident took place at an ice crossing just outside the community. The Deline access road follows land for most of its 99 kilometres before crossing Great Bear Lake.

Kevin McLeod, the government's director of highway and marine services, said Sunday the truck was hauling heating fuel to Deline as part of the annual government-run fuel resupply. 

On March 2, the transportation department tweeted that the weight limit for the road had been increased to 40,000 kilograms from 10,000 kilograms. 

McLeod said department crews had checked the road with ground-penetrating radar and determined that the ice was between 100 and 120 centimetres thick, enough for trucks of that size to safely travel on. He said 11 tankers had already passed through the area before the incident occurred.

The speed limit on the stretch of road is 20 km/h. McLeod said while police are interviewing the driver, there's no evidence he was speeding when his truck broke through, The truck does not appear to be leaking fuel, he added.

"There is no sheen around the water," he said. "The tank...has passed all its inspections in the past and it is a safe tank for carrying fuel on public highways."

Spiridonica said Sunday that crews worked through the night, spraying water into cracks and spaces around the truck to freeze it in place.

"You want to prevent any further sinking," she said.

Once the site is stable, crews will transfer fuel to a second tanker before attempting to remove the truck from the ice. A specialized crew from British Columbia will arrive later this week to help with that task, Spiridonica said.
Deline is located 400 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife. (Google)

The Deline access road is the only road connection between the community, located on the shore of Great Bear Lake, and the Sahtu winter road system. The Deline road historically closes around the end of March.

It wasn't immediately clear if Saturday's incident means the road will close for the season.

McLeod said the department is trying to get a lane open to lighter vehicle traffic as soon as possible, but that won't happen until authorities are convinced the area is safe. He said crews would try to get an alternate route open for truck traffic by the end of the week.

"We'll try to find a detour route around this area so the very important resupply procedures can continue on for Deline," he said. 

The Déline access road, shown in red, connects the community, on the shore of Great Bear Lake, with the Sathu winter road system. (Department of Transportation)

With files from Guy Quenneville


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