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Cheat River Hill truck crash

Posted 12-27-2010 at 08:47 by Bill Powell
Updated 01-11-2011 at 19:28 by Bill Powell

Go to Google and type in (youtube-cheat mountain road, west virginia) and click on the very first hit. It is a video. You can ride with me as I make my way down that hill with no air for my brakes, and driving to the scene of a hell of a crash.

This crash was made possible by a truck/trailer shop in Louisville, Ky who replaced a flexible line with a 3/4 inch copper tube. Copper tubing does not respond well to constant movement.

July 2nd, 1968 I was going west out of Baltimore to Denver. I chose route 50 because it seemed like a pretty straight shot out of Washington, DC. Everything went well til I got to Cheat Mountian hill. I stopped for lunch at the top and after I finished with that I headed down the hill. There was a sign at the top that said, "Steep Grade, Trucks Use Low Gear". Being a believer in cautionary signs I did just that. Again, everything went great til I needed to feather the brakes the first time. When I hit the brakes I heard a loud swooshing sound from the rear of the trailer, announcing that coper tubing had ruptured, and the adventure was on.

On two different occasions I felt the trailer brakes try to engage, but the leak was down hill of all the safety valves. As soon as the brakes engaged the pressure would bleed off again.

For those of you who choose to watch the video the loss of air happened where the video starts, and the wreck occured at the end of the video where the road makes a 90 degree right, and the only flat spot in West Virginia directly in front.

When the air went away and the speed started increasing I amazed myself by calming right down. Two things kept me from jumping. One was the knowledge that I would likely get run over by my own trailer, plus I figured that road would level out eventually. Plus, it was the
2nd of July and there was lots of traffic. About half down the hill I came upon an existing wreck, a flatbed hauling sand blasting sand. There was an ambulance parked partially in the road with the door open. When I was them all milling around in the road I pulled my air horn lanyard and no noise came out. The ambulance saw that, kicked the door shut, and they ran right up that vertical bluff. KAllitle while after that I came to the end of the video and the end of useable road for me cause by this time I was doing eighty or ninety miles per hour. When I came to the right turn I went straight into the meadow. What I did not notice was a tree stump about two feet in diameter and about two feet tall. That hit the center of my bumper and ripped the cab off the frame an flung it forward, upside down. I blacked out when I hit the stump and when I regained my senses I was on my hands and knees on the passenger side ceiling. The steering wheel and the driver's seat frame were tied in a knot.

When the rig left the road, and hit that stump, the trailer laid on its left side and slid 150 feet, bulldozing dirt int front of it. The stering axle was flat on the ground and the frame was twisted 90 degrees right behind the cab. I could rest my elbow on the tallest part of the truck.

The reason that stump was ther is that if I had done that a week earlier I would have gone through the front door of a house. Their insurance company told them, after having been hit by three trucks in the past, to move the house or pay any future repairs on their own. They had to cut down a tree to move the house.

About the time I crawled out of the wreck the ambulance, from the existing wreck, slid to a stop and asked when the driver was. When I told him I was the driver he almost crapped his pantaloons.

My mother told me later that God was riding with me down that hill. I said, "I don't know, if you'd heard some of the names I called him for not provining me with some up hill." My mother was not amused.
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  1. Old Comment
    Yunque's Avatar
    You are a very lucky man. Glad your here to tell the story...
    Posted 01-03-2011 at 13:06 by Yunque Yunque is offline

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