Trucker stops alleged would-be arsonist from igniting gas station

| 4/20/2007

Sheriff’s deputies in Stark County, OH, say a trucker may have stopped an explosion from destroying an entire neighborhood.

A tanker truck driver was filling tanks at a BP gas station in Plain Township, OH, after 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 12, when he was approached by a middle-aged man.

Rick Perez, Stark County’s chief deputy, told Land Line the man began talking to the tanker truck driver but quickly became belligerent.

“He was arguing, ‘I’ll blow you up and kill us all,’ ” Perez said.

The man bent down and held his lit cigarette lighter within one foot of a gas hose being used to transfer 8,000 gallons of gas from a tanker to the station’s underground tanks.

“He was unloading 8,000 gallons of gasoline – can you imagine what that would do?” Perez said.

The truck driver pushed him away, and sheriff’s deputies arrived a short time later to arrest the man after a brief foot chase. The man – Wilburn Martin, 48 – was arrested and charged with aggravated arson, felonious assault, inducing panic and disorderly conduct with intoxication, according to the Canton Repository.

The neighborhood behind the gas station is mostly residential, Perez said. Sheriff’s deputies still aren’t sure what caused the man to try starting a fire, he said.

“I’ve been here 32 years and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone doing that,” Perez said. “It could have been quite a disaster.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer