EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. — A truckload of apples plunged into the Columbia River off U.S. Highway 2/97 nine miles north of East Wenatchee on Feb. 9.

The semi towing a flat-bed trailer stacked with bins of apples was southbound on bare, wet pavement when it apparently veered onto a slushy shoulder on a curve, said Brian Moore, Washington State Patrol trooper.

The driver lost control and the truck destroyed about 500 feet of guardrail, Moore said.

The truck missed one tree and took out another as it plunged down a 30-foot embankment and into the river near the north end of Turtle Rock Island. It happened about 1 p.m.

“The driver was cold and shaken but swam out. He’s extremely fortunate. This could have been a fatality,” Moore said. He identified the driver as Kyle R. Stanton, 40, of Wenatchee.

About 100 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the river and the Chelan County Public Utility District deployed a pontoon boom to contain it, Moore said.

Ron Brooke, operations manager of Auvil Fruit Co. said the truck was hauling 68 bins of juice-peeler grade Fuji apples worth about $2,200, headed from the company’s Orondo plant to a Tree Top plant in Selah for processing. Replacement of the bins will cost about $4,500, he said.

“We’re just glad the driver is OK,” said Ray Norwood, Auvil sales manager.

Stanton was a driver for a contracted hauler, not an Auvil employee, he said.

At 4:30 p.m., a diver was preparing to go into the water to fasten cables to the truck, trailer and apple bins so they could be hoisted from the river. The diver said the water was about 35 degrees. The truck cab was hoisted from the river about 8:30 p.m.

Three days earlier, on Feb. 6, another truck with an enclosed trailer full of boxed apples went into the river 75 miles to the south off State Route 243 between Beverly and Mattawa. It’s a narrow spot between a rock cliff and the river on a sharp curve. The driver was going too fast for conditions, Moore said. The trailer full of apples was washed downstream to a sand bar where it remains, he said.

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