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— More than 50 employees of Arkansas Department of Transportation’s District Seven received the Director’s Diamond Award for their diligent work and quick restoration of U.S. Highway 278 in Ouachita County, according to a news release.

At around 6:45 a.m. on March 27, a tractor trailer transporting ammonium nitrate on U.S. Highway 278 exploded after its brakes caught fire. The blast created a 15-feet-deep by 80-feet- diameter crater in the highway. ARDOT was given access to the area at around 11:00 a.m. after emergency response and investigative teams completed their work.

The driver, 63-year-old Randall McDougal of the Carthage/El Dorado area, was killed in the explosion. Various crew members removed the damaged asphalt, contaminated soil and debris, and replaced and rebuilt this section of roadway. The crew members hauled various materials, spread and compacted these materials, placed and compacted several courses of hot mix asphalt and rebuilt the slopes and ditches.

“They worked every daylight hour and opened the roadway to traffic in less than 48 hours after being given access to the site,” stated the news release, which also stated that the Diamond Award recognizes employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose actions exemplify one or more of the department’s core values of safety, public service, teamwork, quality, integrity, and efficiency.

“The employees we recognize today made a significant difference among their peers, supervisors, and the traveling public,” said ARDOT Director Scott Bennett. “I am proud of what they accomplished.”

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