Friday, July 14, 2000

Truck jumps barrier; wreck blocks I-275

Two drivers taken to hospital

By Walt Schaefer and Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tractor trailer blocks eastbound I-275.
(Ernest Coleman photos)
| ZOOM |
        SHARONVILLE — A Hamilton man may have been both an accident's cause and one of its heroes when a fiery wreck involving a pickup truck and a tractor-trailer rig closed eastbound Interstate 275 for nearly six hours Thursday.

        Using a rope, Russell Fields, 44, along with two anonymous passersby, pulled the tractor-trailer driver 40 feet to safety on an overpass from the driver's burning tractor cab in a creekbed below.

        Sharonville police said Mr. Fields' pickup truck suffered a blown tire that caused the wreck. They charged him with driving under the influence of alcohol and failure to maintain reasonable control of his vehicle after his blood-alcohol level tested .197, nearly twice the legal limit.

        Police said David Cafferty, 53, of Milford, was driving a Meijer tractor-trailer east on Interstate 275 on the bridge overpass over Mill Creek Thursday afternoon when the pickup truck blew a tire and swerved into his lane.

        Upon impact, the two vehicles crashed into a guard rail and bridge parapet,causing the semi's diesel fuel tanks to rupture and igniting both vehicles.

        The burning cab teetered, then fell over the bridge and 40 feet down onto the Mill Creek bank, while the trailer and the pickup truck remained on the expressway.

        The two passersby who helped Mr. Fields rescue Mr. Cafferty slipped away and were not identified.

        “This is a crash to go down in the memory books,” said Sgt. Mark Preuss, who has been an officer for 12 years.

        I-275 eastbound was shut down from 3:45 p.m., when the crash occurred, until cleanup finished at 9:30 p.m.

        The site is between the Mosteller Road interchange and I-75.

Burned-out cab and cargo lie on creek bank.
| ZOOM |
        Mr. Cafferty suffered minor burns. He was rescued from the truck cab and taken to Bethesda North Hospital, where he was treated and released.

        Mr. Fields did not require medical treatment.

        Black marks streaked the interstate's concrete barrier, indicating that the cab likely straddled it before falling onto the west bank of the creek.

        Diesel fuel from the cab's tanks leaked into the creek. Seared groceries — from canned goods to Wisk detergent bottles — cluttered the creek bank.

        The truck also carried paper products, which caught fire inside the truck's trailer. Smoke billowed from the trailer, positioned sideways across the interstate. Firefighters hosed the trailer for more than an hour after the crash.

        “It was terrible,” said Teresa Scherl, 22, of Glendale.

        “It took me half an hour to get from Chester Road (to Cornell Road near Reed Hartman Highway). That would normally be a couple of minutes. It's about 2 miles.”

        Mr. Fields faces a July 20 court date in Hamilton County Municipal Court.

        Reporter Tom O'Neill contributed to this report.        

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