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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/8/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Collision shoves semi over bridge

Toledoan cited for failure to yield when merging north onto I-475

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Emergency crews examine the wreckage after a collision between a car and a tractor-trailer sent the rig careening off the bridge from northbound I-475 onto Manley Road in Maumee. Emergency crews examine the wreckage after a collision between a car and a tractor-trailer sent the rig careening off the bridge from northbound I-475 onto Manley Road in Maumee.
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Northbound I-475/​U.S. 23 was closed most of Friday through Perrysburg Township and Maumee while the Ohio Department of Transportation repaired a construction barrier heavily damaged by a collision Thursday night.

Contractors fix the barrier wall on the I-475 bridge, which was damaged by a tractor-trailer that toppled off the bridge. The damaged barrier wall is seen on the ground. Contractors fix the barrier wall on the I-475 bridge, which was damaged by a tractor-trailer that toppled off the bridge. The damaged barrier wall is seen on the ground.
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The Ohio Highway Patrol blamed an unsafe merge for the crash that sent a tractor-trailer tumbling over a barrier at the freeway’s bridge across Manley Road and the Ohio Turnpike. The accused is a motorist from Toledo who was at the nearby Salisbury Road/​Dussel Drive interchange.

Barricades prevent motorists on Friday from entering northbound I-475 at the U.S. 24 ramp in Maumee. Barricades prevent motorists on Friday from entering northbound I-475 at the U.S. 24 ramp in Maumee.
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Truck driver Demario Burrell, 25, of Detroit escaped serious injury despite his rig’s 60-foot plunge off the freeway, which flattened the truck’s trailer and crushed most of its tractor. He was taken to the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly Medical College of Ohio Hospital, for treatment of injuries troopers said were “non-life-threatening.”

Theresa Pollick, a spokesman at ODOT’s district office in Bowling Green, said the freeway’s reopening was delayed because workers had to make sure barrier wall installed to replace sections destroyed in the crash, which occurred in a construction zone, was securely anchored.

That required drilling new holes for pins to hold the new wall in place. Using epoxy would have been faster, but a subzero cold Friday morning prevented such use of an adhesive, Ms. Pollick said.

Both northbound lanes reopened shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, more than 19 hours after the 8:40 p.m. collision.

Cited for failure to yield after the crash was Daniel Beck, 29, who had tried to enter I-475’s northbound lanes and whose car struck the side of Mr. Burrell’s semi, according to the highway patrol.

Staff Lt. John Altman, assistant commander of the patrol’s Findlay District, said Mr. Beck gave investigators a statement acknowledging he had seen the big rig, but “was trying to get out in front of it.”

The collision sent the semi careening into the barrier wall along the freeway’s left lane and then over the side, where it landed in a work area between the northbound and southbound lanes.

Ms. Pollick said the semi appeared to have overridden several hundred feet of wall before its plunge, which may have helped save Mr. Burrell’s life.

The truck, which narrowly missed landing on the Ohio Turnpike, destroyed at least one pier under construction for a widening project on the I-475 bridge, she said.

The crash’s circumstances strongly resembled those of an Aug. 4, 2011, collision at the same location that led to three deaths when a tractor-trailer crashed into wreckage minutes later.

In that incident, a pickup driven by James South, 68, of Monclova also failed to yield to a northbound tractor-trailer while entering from Salisbury/​Dussel. After colliding with the semi, Mr. South’s pickup spun out and ended up partially blocking the freeway, while the semi stopped on the shoulder farther north.

Several passing motorists stopped to provide assistance. Two of them, along with Mr. South, were killed minutes later when a northbound tractor-trailer driven by John Neal Tucker, 65, of Flint, Mich., slammed into the wreckage.

Another passer-by was severely injured when she jumped off the bridge to avoid being struck by Mr. Tucker’s truck and landed in the Ohio Turnpike’s median.

Mr. Tucker was acquitted last year of criminal negligence in the second crash, and a civil lawsuit filed by the estate of crash victim Jodi Lubas resulted in a judgment entry against the estate of Mr. South, who was uninsured.

Despite the two crashes’ similarity, Lieutenant Altman said he did not consider the Salisbury-Dussel entrance to northbound I-475/​U.S. 23 — which ODOT rebuilt during an interchange project there from 2009 through 2011 — to be dangerous.

“We have merging crashes all over the state,” the lieutenant said. “That’s not a specific problem area.”

The ramp reconstruction lengthened the amount of room drivers entering from Salisbury-Dussel have to merge onto the freeway.

But regardless of how much merge room ramp drivers have, Lieutenant Altman said, “They’ve got to be aware of, and yield to, mainline traffic.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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