Jim Gutshall, Bainbridge

Shell gas station owner
Interviewed: August 16, 1988

Six-thirty Wednesday morning, I knew about the accident. Long before [it was on] some of the radio or in the newspapers. One of the guys that worked on the island went to work and they turned him around and told him to go home. He said, “What’s going on?” and they said, “There was a bad radiation leak sometime last night. And we’re not allowing anybody on the island.” They said, “If we need ya, we’ll call ya.”

So he turned around and came back, stopped here to get gas on his way home. It was around 6:30, something like that. Six-thirty, seven. And he told me to fill it up. It was during the gas shortage and we didn’t have any regular gas. And I said, “I can’t.” He says, “Why not?” I said, “I’m out.” He said, “Don’t you have anything?” I said, “Yeah, I have unleaded and I have high test.” He says, “Put it in.” I said, “I can’t. You got a restrictor in your tank.” He said, “Bust it out, I’m getting out of here!” [That’s when] I said, ‘What happened?’ He said, “TMI’s ready to blow up. They had a bad radiation leak last night. They’re gonna probably be evacuating the whole area.” So you know, we knew it long before it was on the radio. But what can you do about it?

They announced [the accident] Wednesday. I guess Friday they said about evacuating. I’m not really sure of what day anymore. When they said it’s time to move, we moved.

There was a metallic taste. Funny thing is, it was there from three days before they announced [the accident]. So, it must have been that they were leaking it from before.

Monday [March 26th] I had gone for parts. I run from Bainbridge to Columbia for parts and from Bainbridge to Elizabethtown. I never noticed it going toward Elizabethtown. Just down on 441. Like I said, that was three days before they announced any radiation leaks. The taste was strong enough to make ya sick. l mean physically sick. It gagged ya. After you’re away from it for a while, [the taste went away]. But it didn’t go away instantly. I came past there, I think it was Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday evening maybe 4:00-4:30, something like that. And I got back here and I went out back and puked, I mean it was sickening. It was real strong.

It was coming up 441, when you’d come up the road, you could taste it. Up there around Wickersham Road. And right around the Hoover farm. It must have been that it hit the high spots.

I can’t really say anything else other than the metallic taste. My main thing was that taste.

The morning they announced it, it was beautiful. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Everything was so calm. It was absolutely beautiful.

[Jim says he would start to taste the metallic taste just in that elevated area between two ridges. And, he never had that metallic taste before the accident or since.]