The Seekonk and state police departments have concluded that the driver of the truck that overturned last month and caused a fire that severely damaged the historic Old Grist Mill Tavern was not speeding.
"Investigators determined there was no evidence that the operator of the tractor trailer unit was speeding or otherwise operating impaired," states a press release from the Seekonk police that was issued Thursday afternoon. "The investigating state trooper determined that there had been a failure to prevent cargo shifting due to no spacers between pallets and walls over 1.6 feet of space inside the shipping container."
The release continues, "The container was on the trailer. The container was not the property of the trucking company nor had it been packed by the trucking company."
Chiquita Fresh North America LLC of Cincinnati was cited by state police with "fail to prevent cargo from shifting," according to the release. The truck was carrying bananas.
The fire started shortly before 6 a.m. on June 24 after the truck overturned and struck a gas main. The truck was passing through a y-shaped intersection on Fall River Avenue (Route 114A) that the state has determined to be a "high-crash location."
Local and state officials have accused Columba Gas of taking too long to turn off the gas service to the building during the fire. Company officials were supposed to appear at the Board of Selectmen meeting Wednesday night, but the session was canceled for an undisclosed reason.
Approximately 70 percent of the Grist Mill building, which has stood since the mid-18th century (with modifications including a reconstruction following a 1957 fire), was not destroyed in the fire, owner Greg Esmay told Seekonk Patch. He plans to rebuild the restaurant. A Zoning Board of Appeals hearing regarding variances for the reconstruction project is scheduled to take place Monday.