Traffic backed up on Interstate 295 northbound in Yarmouth on Wednesday after a tractor-trailer overturned in the construction zone near Exit 17, leading to delays as traffic was detoured onto local roads during the 15 hours it took to reopen the highway. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine State Police and towing companies struggled to clear an accident on Interstate 295 on Wednesday, taking 15 hours to reopen the northbound side of the heavily traveled highway after a truck carrying natural gas cylinders drifted out of its lane and hit concrete barriers in a construction zone, creating a “complex and highly sensitive” crash scene.

Drivers were caught in traffic for hours as the closure stretched well beyond the evening commute and forced motorists to detour onto local roads.

The process to offload the trailer was slow and required extensive coordination between police, the natural gas company and two different heavy duty towing companies. It was the first time Maine State Police have seen that type of trailer rollover, said Sgt. Chris Rogers of the agency’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit.

“These trailers are very unique and difficult to deal with,” said Rogers, who spent all day at the crash scene.

The trailer was carrying 51 individual cylinders inside the trailer that are connected together as one unit. It was transported under a federal permit required to move compressed natural gas, police said.

Shannon Moss, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, said the crash scene was “complex and highly sensitive” because of the presence of compressed natural gas. Because pipes and valves on the sides and top of the trailer can rupture and cause a potentially catastrophic release of the gas, a deliberate plan had to be crafted to safely clear the scene, she said.


That coordination began shortly after the first trooper arrived at the crash around 9 a.m.

The truck, operated by Xpress Natural Gas of Andover, Massachusetts, was traveling north and approaching a construction zone when the driver, Jerry Freeman, drifted out of his lane multiple times, police said. He drifted out of his lane again in the construction zone and crashed into concrete barriers in the area were crews are replacing the bridges over Route 1.

Rescue workers at the scene where a tractor-trailer overturned, blocking Interstate 295 northbound at Exit 17 in Yarmouth on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The collision caused the trailer to detach and land on the back of a 2016 Hyundai Sonata that also was traveling north. The driver of the Sonata, whose name was not released, was able to get out of the car and was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, state police said.

Freeman, 55, of Lake Port, New Hampshire, was not injured. He was issued a citation for failing to maintain his lane, police said. The highway finally reopened around midnight. 

Xpress Natural Gas sent managers, mechanics, an engineer and three empty trailers to the scene to assist with the cleanup. Others on scene included CPM Constructors, Shaw Brothers Construction, Yarmouth Fire Department crews and Mid-Coast Towing of Durham, which was sent by dispatch when a trooper requested a heavy duty wrecker.

Mid-Coast Towing was the closest company with heavy duty equipment, Rogers said. Mid-Coast cleared the tractor and the sedan so that crews could get closer to the trailer to start offloading the natural gas.


But the crash and resulting traffic backup made getting three empty trailers from Eliot to the scene even more challenging.

The front of a tractor-trailer landed on the back of a Hyundai Sonata on I-295 in Yarmouth on Wednesday. Courtesy of Maine State Police

“Once they got on scene, we were at the mercy of how fast the gas was flowing between the two tanks,” Rogers said.

The trailer had been loaded with natural gas at a facility in Pennsylvania using a compressor and 1-inch hoses. But on the side of a highway, the offloading had to be done without the help of a portable compressor, Rogers said.

Offloading started at noon and took about five hours, Rogers said, noting that it likely took only a couple of hours to load the trailer. Some gas could not be removed and remained in the crashed trailer.


But even after offloading as much fuel as possible, the crews hit another snag. Mid-Coast Towing could not upright the crashed trailer because of its weight and awkward position, Rogers said.


“These are very heavy trailers to begin with. It was a big load to try to lift,” he said.

When it became clear that Mid-Coast wouldn’t be able to move it alone, Xpress Natural Gas asked National Wrecker Service, an Eliot-based company that holds a contract with Xpress for towing services, for help. National Wrecker Service has a rotating wrecker that can spin 90 degrees, which allows it to lift from different positions, Rogers said. Its rotator wrecker can lift 75 tons, the highest lift capacity in the state.

“It can lift way more than your standard heavy duty wrecker. It’s a game-changer,” Rogers said.

The two towing companies were able to slide the trailer onto another trailer, leaving it on its side just as it had been on the road. It was escorted back to Eliot by two state troopers.

At that point, CPM Constructors and Shaw Brothers were able to reset the concrete barriers. The highway reopened around midnight after the Maine Department of Transportation removed snow and ice from the road.

“We got it cleaned up as quickly and safely as we could,” Rogers said.


Xpress Natural Gas said all fuel transporters maintain Emergency Response Action Plans and that it activated its plan to safely remove the fuel from the scene of the crash in Yarmouth without a release.

“Within three hours XNG had personnel and equipment on site necessary to transfer the fuel, and working under the direction of the local fire chief, the fuel transfer was completed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time,” Jeff Ciampa, XNG’s head of operations, said in an email Thursday night.

The subsequent recovery of the truck was the responsibility of state and local authorities, he said, thanking local first responders for their help and apologizing “to the public for any inconvenience the closure of the road caused.”


While this was the first time state police dealt with a crash with this type of trailer, it has responded to other crashes that required complex cleanups.

A rotator tow truck had to be brought in from outside Portland last week to help remove a bucket truck that went off I-295 at Tukey’s Bridge and into the water below, Moss said. The truck veered across all three lanes of traffic before breaking through the guardrail and falling over the embankment. Police said it was a 45-foot drop onto the pathway that was underwater because of the high tide and heavy rain.

Last summer, a mobile home was hit by a car on Route 1 in Wiscasset, ripping the side of the mobile home wide open. State police were unable to find a way to safely move it out of the roadway, Moss said. After consulting with the owner of the mobile home and the insurance company, it was deemed a total loss. After anything salvageable – including appliances and doors – was removed, a local excavating company dismantled the mobile home and cleared it from the middle of Route 1.

And back in 2022, crews struggled to remove a windmill turbine that had gotten stuck on the Congress Street ramp of I-295 in Portland.

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