The driver of a tractor-trailer that plummeted into the Loyalhanna Creek on Route 30 Wednesday was freed two hours after the crash. Rescuers moved him in a raft along the creek after pulling him out of the truck’s cab. He was flown by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital. A passenger was able to free himself and crawl out of the cab shortly after the 8 a.m. crash in Ligonier Township. Firefighters said he was taken to Excela Health Latrobe Hospital for treatment. Township Police Chief Mike Matrunics said they are investigating the possibility that the driver fell asleep. The driver was talking to firefighters and medics during the rescue, he said.
Darlington Fire Chief Bob McDowell said just before 10 a.m. that rescuers were attempting to cut through the bottom of the overturned cab to free the driver. Moments later, he was pulled from the wreckage. Jacob Garletts, 27, of Saltsburg, had just retrieved some household items for his wife at his mother-in-law’s house in Ligonier and was headed home on Route 30 when he noticed multiple brake lights on several vehicles directly in front of him. “I moved over into the passing lane and just saw the back lights of the trailer go over the embankment and flip over the hill into the creek,” Garletts said. Garletts pulled his car off the highway and started down the steep embankment toward the truck’s cab that was resting upside down in the creek.
He said one or two other motorists were just ahead of him heading toward the wreckage. “It was so steep … I fell down once, but once I got down there one of the guys ahead of me was already pulling out the passenger and asked me to help the guy up the hill. He was really scratched up, but seemed OK, except he was disoriented,” Garletts said. Garletts said the truck passenger told him that he was assisting the truck’s driver immediately after the crash, “but his leg was stuck and he couldn’t get him freed out of his seatbelt.” “Then he told me he saw somebody’s hand come in the cab to help get him out and he grabbed it,” Garletts said.
BREAKING NEWS: Crews are on the scene of a tractor-trailer overturned in a creek in Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County.
Posted by WTAE-TV Pittsburgh on Wednesday, August 22, 2018
McDowell said the rescue was “very complicated” because rescue crews had to stabilize the overturned cab and trailer for the safety of firefighters. He said crews from Darlington, Waterford, Ligonier, Bradenville’s water rescue team, Youngstown and Greensburg assisted as well as the Westmoreland County Hazardous Materials Team. After firefighters cut the hole through the bottom of the cab, McDowell said rescuers were able to attach a chain to the driver’s seat to “pull it back” and lift the driver to safety out of the side of the cab. He said many of the rescuers were in the water during the rescue and the driver was just a few inches from being submerged in the water. Matrunics said the driver, who was not identified, was conscious and talking with rescuers.
“He was really exhausted from what he went through,” McDowell said. “We do believe fatigue was a factor in the crash,” Matrunics added. Firefighters reported that the tractor-trailer from Maines Paper and Food Service Co., headquartered in Conklin, N.Y., was hauling paper products west from a plant in central Pennsylvania. Matrunics said the origin and owner of the truck is part of the investigation. The state police specialized motor carrier unit was on the scene to inspect the rig’s equipment. The westbound lanes of Route 30 were closed. Crews are had to contain a fuel spill. Herring Motor Company in Somerset County towed the truck out of the creek.