PennDOT crash-impact vehicle hit by tractor-trailer saves lives

A crash-impact vehicle on the back of a state Department of Transportation dump truck proved its worth in gold Thursday morning when a tractor-trailer truck slammed into it in the right northbound lane of Route 15 at the Beautys Run Road interchange.

Both the PennDOT employee sitting in the stopped vehicle and the tractor-trailer driver escaped serious injuries in the 9 a.m. crash, according to emergency responders.

“This could have been a lot worse,” one PennDOT worker said at the scene.

The PennDOT vehicle was protecting a group of workers who were cleaning bridges (overpasses) less than 1,000 feet ahead of the truck, according to officials at scene.

With a large flashing directional sign, the crash-impact vehicle was directing traffic into the passing lane and away from the cleaning crew when it was hit, investigators said.

Why the driver of the tractor-trailer failed to move over to the passing lane was unknown. State police were leading the investigation into the crash, but as of late Thursday, they had not released any details.

The identities of the injured PennDOT vehicle and tractor-trailer driver were not available Thursday night. Both were taken to the UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Medical Center by ambulances. There was no information about their conditions, but emergency responders at the scene said their injuries did not appear to be life threatening.

The empty tractor-trailer hit the crash-impact unit and dump truck so hard that the 26,000-pound dump truck spun around, landing facing south.

“It served its purpose. It worked as it was designed. It saved a life,” one highway worker said, referring to the crash-impact vehicle.

In the collision, one of the tractor-trailer truck’s saddle tanks was ripped free of the rig. An estimated 50 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the tank before it was plugged by firefighters.

City and Old Lycoming Township firefighters responded to the crash.

Northbound traffic was detoured around the crash by exiting at Beautys Run Road and then allowed back up the on-ramp along the berm.

Traffic was backed up for at least a mile as workers with a pair of heavy-duty tow trucks worked to clear the crash.