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Published: Friday, 6/8/2007

Big rig takes man in wheelchair for a wild ride

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ben Carpenter, 21, was crossing a street in front of a tractor-trailer when the light turned green. The truck driver didn't see Mr. Carpenter, whose wheelchair got stuck in the truck's grill. Ben Carpenter, 21, was crossing a street in front of a tractor-trailer when the light turned green. The truck driver didn't see Mr. Carpenter, whose wheelchair got stuck in the truck's grill.
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Ben Carpenter got the ride of a lifetime when his electric wheelchair became lodged in the grille of a tractor-trailer and was accidentally pushed down a highway for several miles at about 50 mph.

His father, Donald Carpenter, was incredulous when police called to tell him his 21-year-old son was OK after the wild ride.

Donald Carpenter said his son had started to cross at an intersection in Paw Paw, Mich., about 140 miles west of Detroit, where the truck had stopped for a red light. The light changed to green while Ben Carpenter was still in front of the truck, which started moving forward.

The truck bumped the wheelchair, which turned to face forward, its handles becoming lodged in the grille, the father said. That's how the ride started.

"He's so low that the truck driver couldn't see him, and the truck headed out," he said.

The wheelchair, with Ben Carpenter strapped in it, ended up being pushed by the truck as it sped down the Red Arrow Highway. Police said the wheelchair was pushed about four miles, but Donald Carpenter said it was about half that distance.

The bizarre sight caught the attention of motorists. Many called 911 on their cell phones. A pair of undercover police officers driving in the opposite direction at the time saw what was happening, did a quick U-turn, followed the truck to its business and informed the disbelieving driver, Donald Carpenter said.

His son escaped injury.

"He's fine," Donald Carpenter said. "Not a scratch. He was basically just scared."

Ben Carpenter, who has muscular dystrophy, lives with his parents in nearby Kalamazoo. He had gone to Paw Paw to ride on a trail with a medical aide who was on a bicycle, his father said.

The aide fell slightly behind when Ben Carpenter was crossing the intersection and, because of the angle, didn't see him being pushed down the road. She had no idea what happened to him.



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