PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An “absurd” scene played out along a highway in Oregon Thursday afternoon when a truck filled with live eels tipped and spilled its contents on passing cars and the road.
Around 1:30 p.m., the northbound truck lost its contents and created quite a smelly scene on Highway 101 at milepost 131.
The truck driver, 59-year-old Salvatore Tragale of Lincoln City, was headed toward some roadway construction when he was flagged to stop. But he couldn’t stop the truck and 13 containers — 7,500 pounds of slime eels — shifted weight and tipped, the Oregon State Police said.
“I don’t know if he didn’t see it or whatever but he kept coming and so to miss the ODOT truck, which was turning in front of him and he just whipped out and he did right in front of the car, which was the first car and so he lost one of the big tanks,” said Kevin White, whose car was among those damaged in the wreck.
The containers spilling caused a chain reaction that pushed 4 vehicles into each other. A driver from Arizona was the first car slimed, followed by 3 other drivers from Oregon. A minor injury was reported.
Police said charges are pending for Tragale.
Erina Butler, who was in the front passenger seat of an oncoming car, said she saw the truck, with bins stacked one on top of the other, shift.
“Our brains couldn’t process what was happening,” Butler told KOIN 6 News. But the bins tipped and “they just kept going, cascading, a domino effect over these poor cars.”
She said she doesn’t believe the truck hit any other vehicle. It just “dumped live eels all over the cars, all over the road.”
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the creatures are officially called hagfish, aka slime eels. The slime forms when mucous from the body mixes with water.
“I had no choice but to get out and I was walking in it,” White said said. “It was ugly.”
Butler said it seemed the liquid poured over the cars in slow motion.
“It was liquid eel,” she said.
Her car wasn’t impacted so she told KOIN 6 News she called 911 and reported the incident. She also checked to see if anyone was hurt.
“People were just agape. It was crazy,” she said.
Videos on the Depoe Bay Fire District’s Twitter account showed crews using fire hoses to scour the road. ODOT closed the road for several hours but it has since reopened. Officials said drivers should still be cautious in the area.