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PHOTO COURTESY OF DAWSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Charges filed in overturned truck carrying explosive chemical

BY DENISE RAY
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A 64-year old woman was arrested in the early morning hours of Sept. 10 charged with driving under the influence and failure to maintain lane in a wreck that left a truck transporting 6,000 gallons of ammonium nitrate overturned in Dawson County.

Georgia State Patrol arrested Pamela B. Russell, 64, of Gainesville in connection with the four-vehicle wreck that occurred on Hwy. 53 and left two men with minor injuries.

Authorities say Russell was going east on Hwy. 53 and allegedly crossed the centerline into the westbound lane, sideswiping the 1998 International 4800 commercial truck, causing the driver of the truck to lose control and overturn onto its right side. 

Russell then allegedly sideswiped another car and finally collided into a third vehicle.

The truck spilled out about five gallons of the petroleum-based ammonium nitrate product, according to Dawson County Fire and EMA Director Danny Thompson.

In a press conference, Thompson stressed that without other elements interacting with the chemical, it was not a threat to ignite.

Earlier reports erroneously described the explosive as dynamite.

"I know there's been a lot of talk on social media that it's dynamite. This product's actually used in lieu of dynamite, and has been for about the last 15-20 years, because it's very safe in transportation and just it's general usage," Thompson said.

He said the chemical is commonly used in mining and rock quarries and was headed to Marble Hill in Pickens County.

"I think that the big takeaway here, really, is it requires several different elements for it to become that explosive component," Thompson said of the ammonium nitrate. "In and of itself, it is not."

The truck is owned by a company called Austin Powder, out of Gainesville. 

A request for comment from the company was not returned.

The wreck occurred around 5 a.m. Sept. 10.

Russell bonded out of the Dawson County Adult Detention Center later that day.

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