Oil Truck Crashes Into Camper And House, Injuring One Man In Watford City

Matthew McDonal surveys the damage Sunday, July 14, 2013, the day after an oil truck rolled down a hill and pushed a camper into a house in Watford City, injuring a man who was asleep in the camper. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — A Colorado man is lucky to be alive after an oil tanker truck rolled down a hill here late Saturday and pushed the camper where he was sleeping into an adjacent house.

Three employees of oilfield rental equipment business Atigun Inc. were at the house they share in Watford City  about 10:45 p.m. Saturday when employee Matthew McDonal heard a loud boom.

McDonal, who was in his bedroom reading, went out and saw an oil tanker through through a camper parked behind the house and thought the worst about his co-worker who had been asleep inside the camper.

“I thought ‘Tom’s gone,’” McDonal said.

McDonal woke his supervisor who was in another bedroom, called 911 and then heard his friend, Tom Netschert, screaming. He went into the garage and found Netschert standing there hunched over after the truck pushed him and the camper through the wall of the garage.

“It was pretty gnarly,” McDonal said. “It’s a miracle he’s even alive.”

After bringing Netschert outside, McDonal looked for the truck driver but couldn’t find anyone. Emergency responders arrived within five minutes and brought Netschert to the hospital. Netschert did not suffer any broken bones and was released Sunday, McDonal said.

Netschert, 45, has been working as a mechanic in North Dakota for about two years to support his wife and kids who live in the Colorado Springs, Colo., area, McDonal said. Netschert was sleeping in the camper because the basement of the house was recently flooded.

The oil trailer was empty and did not cause any fires or explosions, McDonal said. A wrecker removed it early Sunday morning.

An oil truck crashed through a camper and into this garage office space in Watford City, N.D.

This is the second time in less than three years a truck has rolled down the hill toward the house and office of Atigun Inc., which is on Watford City’s Main Street near a busy corner where U.S. Highway 85 makes a 90-degree turn.

Truck drivers often park at the top of the hill and walk across the street to Kum & Go convenience store, McDonal said.

Tire tracks are still visible from the last time a truck rolled and stopped right before hitting the house, said supervisor Corky Barlow.

The truck driver from this weekend’s incident stopped by the house Sunday morning and was shaken up, McDonal said. The driver said he put the parking brake on, McDonal said.

A dispatcher for the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office and Watford City Police Department said she did not have any information about the incident and officers were not available Sunday to take media calls.

McDonal said he keeps replaying the crash in his mind and still can’t believe his co-worker did not have more severe injuries. Netschert planned to fly home to be with family.

“It’s absolutely a miracle,” McDonal said.

3 Responses

    1. In most heavy trucks, the brake pedal is in the middle and on rigs with air release brake systems, their are spring loaded brake cans on each wheel hub. When a truck with this system is parked, you pull out a yellow knob in the dash to release the air off the cans and the springs will apply the brakes to the tractor drive axle brakes. When you pull out the red knob, the same happens for the spring loaded trailer brakes.

  1. No matter how you look at it, the driver did something wrong. If he set the brakes, both tractor and trailer, then it means he did not do a thorough pre trip inspection which ,would have revealed the out of adjustment brake system on his rig. Also, if his brakes were so far out of adjustment that releasing the air off the cans would not keep the truck from rolling down a hill, he would (should have) noticed it within the first few minutes of driving. Also, on the same subject, Safe Practice while parking a truck on a hill, in addition to setting the air brakes, is to shut off the vehicle’s engine, place the transmission in the lowest gear opposite of the direction of natural travel in the event of the trucks involuntary movement. That means that if the truck is facing nose down hill, place the manual transmission in the lowest reverse gear. The engine compression will aid in reducing the possibility of a runaway rig in the event all the brakes fail.
    If the driver didn’t set the brakes, then he lied about his actions operating a heavy, commercial vehicle and his company should be held responsible to pay for the damages and also stand in court in the event that the injured individual decides to sue the offending driver’s company.

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