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Raised Dump Truck Hits Overhead Sign On I-84 In Manchester

Dump Truck Crash

The truck's dump body flew up and became entangled in the highway sign, which then caused the truck's chassis and cab to lift into the air. (COURTESY OF PERRY SMITH / March 4, 2009)

MANCHESTER - Freddie Mitchell had just dumped a load of dirt at a construction site off the right shoulder of westbound I-84 about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday when he maneuvered his dump truck back onto the highway.

But Mitchell, 62, of Garden Street in Hartford, apparently forgot one key step, state police said.

"When [the truck] left the construction site and re-entered the highway, the dump body was upright," said Trooper William Tate, a state police spokesman. "For obvious reasons, that's wrong."

Mitchell, who drives for Herb Holden Trucking of East Windsor, got as far as an overhead sign for Exit 63, three-quarters of a mile east of the exit. The raised truck body struck the sign. The sign barely moved.

The impact, however, yanked the truck's dump body back and thrust the truck's cab — with Mitchell inside — 20 feet into the air. Mitchell remained there until Vernon firefighters, using a ladder-tower truck, rescued him about 10:20 a.m. Mitchell was not injured, authorities said, but was taken to Hartford Hospital to be checked.

"He was fairly calm," said Vernon fire Lt. Michael Levasseur, who helped rescue Mitchell. "He had the presence of mind to do what we were telling him and to stay still till we got him out of there."

Firefighters were concerned that the truck would fall over, because it appeared that only a bit of the damaged sign was holding the truck up, Levasseur said.

"We didn't want to risk the sign giving way," Levasseur said. "We threw the guy a harness and just had him hold still" while firefighters waited for a wrecker to stabilize the truck.

Firefighters were also nervous that if Mitchell moved around inside the cab, or a strong gust of wind hit it, the truck could topple. "We weren't sure if it could or not, but we didn't want to find out," Levasseur said.

Two wreckers, both from Tolland Automotive Enterprises Inc. of East Hartford, arrived at the scene shortly after 10 a.m. Once the wrecker operators stabilized the truck, the firefighters edged their bucket toward Mitchell and plucked him out of the cab. They then lowered him to waiting medics, who took him to the hospital.

One wrecker extended a boom to support the truck cab and prevent it from falling during the rescue, company owner George Fellows said. The boom was then used to support the front of the truck as its bed was righted. For that job, a 50-ton hydraulic wrecker behind the dump truck was used, Fellows said.

Mitchell could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A person answering the phone at Holden Trucking said "no comment." State police said their investigation into the accident is continuing.

•Courant staff writers Christine Dempsey and Hilda Muñoz contributed to this story.

Related topic galleries: Fires, Police Investigations, Vehicles, Tolland (Tolland, Connecticut), East Windsor, East Hartford, Transportation

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