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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

Rock attack hints barrier may not be foolproof

Thank God for all those fast-food napkins Bob Lubell had tucked away in his car.

When a rock smashed his windshield and shattered his hand, they were pretty useful.

A freelance photographer, Bob was working the night of July 25, headed to Rossford for a wedding reception.

“I'd just completed shooting the wedding ceremony at Toledo Botanical Garden, and I was on I-475 heading toward downtown Toledo,” said Bob.

It wasn't quite 6:30 p.m.

“Where Auburn crosses the highway, I see about a dozen kids on the overpass.”

One of them, he noticed, had a rock. Boredom? Who knows.

“I watch this [rock] launch, and I'm thinking, you know, the big dent on the hood. I'm thinking, `Oh, no, body work.'”

He wasn't that lucky.

“My mouth was full of glass, and I looked down, and realized I was bleeding.”

He managed to pull over and wrap his hand in those napkins.

Exactly one week before, Gov. Bob Taft announced appointments to his Highway, Bridge, and Overpass Vandal Fence Task Force - a big mouthful of words that sums up what happened to Bob Lubell.

On the task force's To-Do list is coordinating data between the state transportation department and police departments. Ideally, a computerized system would track those times when people with rocks in their heads stand above freeways and let go of the rocks in their hands.

The slab that broke Bob's hand wasn't all that big. Neither was the gap through which it passed, a 2.5-inch space between the overpass fencing and the guard rail.

“I watched the rock falling straight down, and I didn't have any fear because of this barrier there, this screen. I thought, `Well, the bridge is protected.' Next thing I know, there's glass shattering, this amazing white-out, and it was the explosion of all this flying glass that just pulverized into dust.”

Bob has since learned that the Ohio officials paid to fuss over highway accoutrements have a term for what he needed that night.

“Newer bridges have design changes, and the ODOT [phrase] for this is `missile barrier.'”

Actually, Bob's been doing a lot of research since that evening.

“The more I read about this, and learn that people often do not come out so lucky as me, I've decided that my contribution to the community is that I'm going to hook up with the Toledo schools and other schools. I want to talk to classes about pranks.”

He's still trying to figure out what is so alluring about dropping a solid object on a passing car.

“This particular [prank] has no satisfaction, because by the time the car is hit, you can't see it. The car is a quarter-mile away. You'll never see your `work.' It's not like dropping an egg out of a window on someone walking by.”

Recently, Bob drove down Auburn to the overpass.

“I went to the spot and looked down, and tried to time the impact with my camera. I shot 100 frames and I couldn't time it.”

I guess the kid who broke his hand must have just had plain dumb luck.



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