The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 31, 2013

Coal truck crash forces brief closure of Rt. 22

NANTY GLO — A blown tire apparently forced a coal truck off Route 22, sending it 25 feet down a hill Tuesday, then briefly closed the road so responders could clean up the wreckage, police said.

The tri-axle spilled its load of fly ash and rolled at least once before coming to a halt. But the driver, Jeffrey Weakland of Hastings, was able to walk away from the crash, despite the fact that his cab was compressed above him, Jackson Township police Capt. Phil Vaught Jr. said.

Vaught said he was heading west on the highway when he saw the truck coming east just past the Mundys Corner exit.

He said a front tire was blown on the truck’s passenger side. Within seconds, fender parts were scattering on the roadway and the truck veered toward the side of the road.

“Once he hit the guard rail, it looked like it caught. It sucked him right down into that ditch,” Vaught said.

More than 100 feet of rail was pulled off the road –  taking some chunks of the road surface to which it was anchored.

Jackson Township Deputy Fire Chief Don Ochenrider said he was dispatched to the accident expecting an entrapment,  but was surprised to see Weakland standing outside the battered truck when he arrived moments later.

Vaught said he and a few nearby sheriff’s deputies were able to break through the truck’s front window to help Weakland out of the vehicle.

He and Ochenrider said Weakland apparently is a self-employed trucker.  

They said Weakland was taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical Center for treatment as a precaution.

Ochenrider said PennDOT was notified of the crash.

While fire crews from Jackson and Nanty Glo fire departments were busy sweeping debris from the roadside above, tow truck drivers approached the wreckage trying to determine the best way to pull the truck from the slope below.

Vaught said a towing company that specializes in hauling semis was called to the scene to assist.

The crash, meanwhile, remained under investigation Tuesday evening, Jackson Township police said.

Follow Tribune-Democrat reporter David Hurst on Twitter @tddavidhurst.

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