Italy — Eluding state troopers at speeds topping 150 mph while traveling north on Highway 35 toward Dallas, the driver attempted to evade his pursuers by taking the Italy exit at a high rate of speed. Witnesses estimated the vehicle was still moving approximately 80 to 90 mph down the off ramp when the driver attempted to cut the corner and turn south onto Highway 34. The car dislodged road signs as it emerged from the ditch and likely catapulted into the side of an 18-wheeler that had just proceeded through the intersection.
The vehicle hit the 18-wheeler’s gas tank straight-on. The tank, which was located directly behind the driver’s side cab, was ripped from the bent and twisted frame causing diesel fuel to saturate the area. The impact launched the driver of the fleeing vehicle thru the windshield and then lodged him between the back tires of the still moving truck which continued to role another 25 feet before coming to rest under the Interstate 35E bridge. The under bridge was immediately surrounded and blocked off by state troopers and the Italy Police Department with Chief Diron Hill and Officer Shawn Martin on scene to help redirect traffic.
The Italy Fire Department received the call shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday and responded quickly. The driver of the 18-wheeler, operated by the Building Materials Corp. out of Wayne, New Jersey, was uninjured, however, the driver of the vehicle had abbrasions on his head and shoulder and complained of lower back pain. The driver of the vehicle was then transported by ambulance to the Dairy Queen parking lot where the diesel fuel was hosed from his body by Bobby McBride of the Forreston Volunteer Fire Department.
The driver of the vehicle was then flown by Air Evac to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Equipment, including the inside of the ambulance, was hosed off as well in an effort to completely remove any remaining diesel fuel.
Back under the bridge, clean up began when Helm’s Garage arrived with a tractor and two tow trucks. Owner Keith Helms was assisted by his wife Margaret and their sons, Russell and Wesley. The totaled vehicle was hauled away as well as the 18-wheeler that was now crippled. There was no damage to the trailer section of the rig.
Under the guidance of Donald Chambers, Firefighter Red Buchanan, the members of the Italy Fire Department helped remove debris and hosed the diesel fuel from the roadway while Donald’s wife, Kay Chambers, helped pass out water bottles to the emergency workers. Firefighter’s Michael Martinez, Jackie Cate and Paul Cockerham served as a hazmat crew spraying soap on the area while Sal Perales manned the pumper engine. Kay and Donald’s sons, Michael Chambers and Brad Chambers, helped clear the area with help from Forreston firefighters. Traffic was allowed to again flow under the bridge around 8:00 p.m.