SURF CITY, NC (WECT) - A fuel spill from a military helicopter flooded an area of Surf City with a strong odor of tar Thursday evening, according to half a dozen witnesses.
One witness said the 650 gallon fuel tank made a large splash in the water near the 1700 block of North Shore Drive around 1:00 PM. The witness said the people on the helicopter apparently realized they had lost some of their load and turned around to look for the tank.
One witness reported seeing an oil slick on the surface of the water for about fifteen minutes before it disappeared. Many others reported a strong smell of tar or gasoline that gave them headaches.
The beach was not shut down to swimmers or surfers, many of whom continued to swim after learning the tank had fallen.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Surf City firefighters and police spent hours searching for the tank from air, land, and water, but no one has been able to find it at this time. Authorities say if a swimmer or boater finds it, they should call 911 immediately.
According to authorities, the fuel tank is designed to reseal itself if it becomes detached from the helicopter so minimal fuel is dispersed. However, there is no way to know how much of the 100-200 gallons of fuel in the tank leaked into the ocean.