The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

May 7, 2014

Jackknifed truck on I-80 brings traffic jam to valley

SHENANGO TOWNSHIP — Traffic westbound on Interstate 80 came to an abrupt halt Tuesday morning when a tractor-trailer veered out of control, jackknifed and caught fire, barely missing the bridge that runs over Seig Hill in Shenango Township.

No one was injured in the accident that involved another tractor-trailer.

The driver of a flat bed trailer truck, Orestes Dergado, 50, from Cuba, said he’s never been in an accident or even had a traffic citation in the 14 years of driving a truck.

Dergado said he was in the right lane traveling west when another truck passed him on the left, cut over in front of him and slowed down.

That caused him to lose control, with his truck weaving back and forth before it landed partially over an embankment, slowed by the guardrail.

“I couldn’t control the steering,” Dergado said.

Witnesses said Dergado was out of his cab before it caught fire, but they had to pull him out of harm’s way when he tried to retrieve personal items from it.

“I walked up and it wasn’t fully engulfed,” Jeff Schuster, Clearfield, Pa., said. “Once it started going it took about 10 minutes to burn.”

Another witness said he saw “big, thick, black smoke flying up in the air.”

Police closed both lanes of I-80 westbound from the West Middlesex exit to Route 18 from 7:15 a.m. when the accident happened.

Shenango Township Fire Chief Bill Williams said PennDOT  officials covered the roadway with sand to soak up spilled oil before opening both lanes of the interstate.

Curious travelers stuck in two miles of backed-up traffic milled about the bridge, resigned to a long wait as officials worked to separate the flat bed from the almost nonexistent cab.

Sharon police directed traffic at Budd Street onto Route 62, which was almost bumper to bumper tractor-trailer trucks at about 10 a.m. in slow-moving traffic into Ohio.

Drivers in West Middlesex, Hermitage and Farrell also were left scratching their heads when traffic flow was interrupted with an unusual number of trucks.

The other truck involved sustained minor damage to the back of its trailer.

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