Questions Remain in Wake of Minot Wreck

MINOT, N.D. -- More than a dozen Minot Police Department employees and several firefighters were exposed to anhydrous ammonia while performing their duties during the disaster, the Minot Daily News reports.

Fire chief Harold Haugstad said none of his firefighters went to the hospital, but he said they have had scratchy throats and burning eyes from their exposure.

Police Chief Dan Draovitch said his employees, several of them dispatchers, where checked over at the hospital. "I’ve signed 12 or 13 Workmen’s Comp forms," he said.

Draovitch said he was going to the hospital Monday afternoon, himself, for a checkup. He said he had driven through the cloud of ammonia and had inhaled some of the gas. The chief had returned to duty last week after being off for several days with what was thought to be a bout of pneumonia.

Draovitch said Monday he had considered closing down Minot Central Dispatch for a time after the fumes got so bad in the police department.

He said he sent two dispatchers to the main fire station where a command center had been set up. "I did that for continuity in case we had to close down the dispatch center here," the chief said.

He held up two fingers and said, "We were this close to closing down the operation, but then the cloud lifted somewhat and everybody stayed put." One of his officers, Chad Eagleson, who lives on North Hill, drove into the ammonia cloud on his way to the police station. The chief said Monday he had talked to Eagleson, who is now back on the job.

Ward County Sheriff Vern Erck said one of his deputies spent about 45 minutes stranded in his patrol car after he drove it off into the ditch on the east side of the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass. He said Deputy Scott Erb took the night off Sunday night after his experience.

Erck said Erb stayed in his car and covered up with his coat. He said the deputy told him he couldn’t see out the window.

Erck said Erb was caught in the cloud while on patrol at about 1:45 a.m. "He had all of his emergency lights and his spotlight on in the car and rescuers could just barely see the car," Erck said.

Erb was sent to the hospital to be examined after the incident.