A Danville woman narrowly escaped serious injury Tuesday afternoon when a tractor-trailer rig loaded with toilet paper and paper towels overturned on top of her SUV as she was preparing to stop for a red light at the intersection of the Danville bypass and Lebanon Road.
“I can’t believe my head is not crushed,” Wendy Howard, 39, said at the scene as she looked at her GMC Envoy with the front of its cab caved in by the trailer, which was carrying a payload of about 45,000 pounds.
The big truck, owned by Crete Carrier Corp., collided with a Chevy pickup truck driven by Clifton Grubbs Jr. of Danville, who was traveling east through the intersection on Lebanon Road, and then careened into the northbound lanes. The tractor-trailer sideswiped a Ford pickup truck driven by Sabe Ruggles, 18, of Danville before the weight of the load shifted, causing the trailer to overturn on top of Howard’s vehicle, police said.
Grubbs was transported from the scene by ambulance to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center for treatment of possible back and neck injuries, police said. No other injuries were reported.
The cab of the big truck ran through a guardrail on the right side of the northbound lanes before turning over on its side, leaving the trailer sprawled across three lanes of traffic. The intersection was finally cleared about 11 p.m., eight hours after the crash occurred, police said.
Because the trailer was damaged in the crash, it had to be partially unloaded before it could be brought upright, Danville Police Chief Tony Gray said.
The paper products, which had just been picked up at Wausau in Harrodsburg, were off-loaded onto pallets by hand and then reloaded on to another trailer using a forklift, Danville police Capt. James Monroe said.
Roberts Towing of Lexington brought two oversized wreckers to the scene in order to winch the big rig back on its wheels, Gray said. A tanker truck also was deployed to drain the diesel fuel from the overturned truck before it was set right, Monroe said.
Howard said she had been running errands and was on her way to pick up her daughter at Woodlawn Elementary School when the big truck flashed across her path as she was easing up to the stop light.
“It all happened so fast. The trailer just came in on me,” she said.
The top of the trailer smashed in the cab of Howard’s SUV, but she sustained no injuries and was able to unbuckle her seat belt and climb out through a back door, she said.
Several people at the scene speculated what might have happened to Howard if she had traveled another foot or two before the trailer toppled over on to her vehicle.
“It’s one of those things where you just go ‘Wow!’” said Danville Fire Chief Woody Ball. “Her guardian angel was flying with her, I suppose.”