PORTLAND, OREGON (WIVB) – Drivers on a Portland highway were caught in a sticky situation on Thursday after a truck filled with live eels overturned and covered passing cars in slime.
The 59-year-old driver, Salvatore Tragale, was headed toward a construction zone when he was flagged to stop. As he hit the brakes, the weight of the 7,500 pounds of slime eels inside caused the truck to tip, Oregon State Police said.
Thirteen shipping containers full of the sea creatures spilled onto the highway, causing a 4-car pileup. Minor injuries were reported.
“It was liquid eel,” Erin Butler, a witness to the accident, told CBS affiliate KOIN 6. “Our brains couldn’t process what was happening.”
The truck itself didn’t hit any other vehicle; it just “dumped live eels all over the cars, all over the road,” Butler said.
Kevin White, whose car was among those damaged in the wreck, said he had to walk through the thick white goo to assess the situation.
“It was ugly,” he told KOIN 6.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said slime eels, formally known as hagfish, produce mucous from glands along each side of their body when they feel threatened.
“[They] are a primitive jawless fish similar to lamprey that are plentiful off the Oregon coast and considered a delicacy in Korea and China — though we guess these might not taste too good anymore,” the ODFW said in a statement online.
Police confirm the eels were being shipped to Korea for consumption and said charges are pending for Tragale.
The Oregon Department of Transportation closed the road for several hours as the Depoe Bay Fire Department used a bulldozer to clear the eels from Highway 101 and removed slime from the roadway with fire hoses.
“Never a dull day for Oregon’s traffic/incident responders,” the Oregon Department of Transportation posted on Facebook after the cleanup.
Butler described the entire experience as “hilarious” and “absurd.”
“[I’ll remember] the sliminess of it all,” she said, adding, “I will never eat eel.”