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Barriers prevent propane explosion

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A possible disaster was avoided April 25, after a car plowed over heavy metal barriers buried in about two feet of concrete protecting two large propane tanks.

One of the tanks was moved by the front of the car, but no gas leaked.

The incident occurred behind Wal-Mart in Galax about 8 p.m.

Galax police said a 1998 Ford Taurus, driven by Christopher Jordan Walker, 19, of Hillsville, was traveling at an estimated 45 mph when he lost control in the parking lot near the lube and tire department. Walker was not injured.

Police said Walker struck the two metal barriers and slid into one of the tanks.

Galax Fire Chief David Hankley said both of the propane tanks were full. The Galax Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene, but there was no leakage.

Hankley said the department started a campaign to make sure propane tanks in Galax were protected by barriers after a vehicle struck an unprotected propane tank in Fries in December 2007.

The resulting explosion killed one person and injured others, destroyed a laundromat and restaurant and set the town's nearby fire station ablaze.

Hankley said Wal-Mart store officials cooperated with the fire department's program and installed the barriers to protect the tanks.

“If the barriers were not in place, there could have been an explosion,” Hankley said.

Galax Officer Chris Hines investigated the accident and charged Walker with reckless driving. He estimated damage to the car at about $6,000 and damage to the barriers at $1,500.

The Galax-Grayson Ambulance Service also assisted at the scene.