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Tractor-Trailer Crash Sends 3 to Hospital, Closes Rte. 2

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
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The top of the cab lies next to the trailer.
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An SUV was clipped in the collision.
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The runaway truck came to rest against the flood control chute.
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The driver hit the median and went airborne.
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Firefighters remove the driver from the cab.
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Police say the dripping fluid was cooking oil that the truck was hauling.
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A corner of the house just east of Gallup Street was damaged.
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Numerous emergency responders were on the scene.
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The engine of the runaway truck.
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The driver of the ABF truck is tended to.
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Reams of paper littered the roadway.
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Officials expected it to take hours to remove the trucks and trailers.
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The cab of the ABF was sheared off.
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A utility pole was split.

The impact was so great that the cab on the ABF truck was sheared off and settled pointing in the wrong direction. The small Civic in the middle received minor damage.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A horrific collision between two tractor-trailer trucks on Route 2 on Monday afternoon sent four three people to the hospital and is expected to close the road between Miner and East Main streets for hours.

[Both drivers were in fair or stable condition on Tuesday morning. The road was not reopened until 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.]

Police say the westbound semi lost its brakes around the Hairpin Turn on the Mohawk Trail. State police followed as he tried to slow the vehicle without success.

The truck hit the median on the eastbound lane at the intersection of Union and Beaver streets and rammed head-on into an ABF semi in the eastbound lane that had just passed Gallup Street.

The accident occurred at about 3:30 p.m.

The impact was so great it sheared off the ABF cab and and destroyed the cab on the runaway truck. The collision also sheared off a utility pole at the bottom of Gallup Street and damaged the corner of a home.

The runaway semi came to rest against the concrete wall of the flood control at the Eclipse Dam. Both drivers were transported at first to North Adams Regional Hospital and were expected to be taken to Baystate Medical or Albany, N.Y. Lifeflight was on its way to North Adams.

Pieces of the cabs and materials inside them were scattered along the roadway, with parts of the blue runaway cab mixed in with the green ABF. Paper littered the road, presumably manifests and other paperwork that was stored in runaway's cab. Diesel fuel was leaking from both trucks.

Sgt. James Burdick said more information on the identities of the drivers would not be available until late Monday or Tuesday. It was not known what the trucks were hauling other than they were not hazardous.

Crews were still working at 9:30 p.m. to get the road cleared and the power back on.

Burdick said he could not remember a similar accident in his nearly 30 years on the force.

A neighbor said she'd heard a bang similar to snowplows hitting her driveway. When she looked out the window, she could see the smashed up blue cab and smoke rising from it and called 911.

Two cars were also involved in the crash. A small gray Civic Honda following the ABF truck had minor damage but a blue Toyota Highlander behind the Civic was hit and received significant front-end damage. The driver of the Highlander, Susan Konopka, 57, was taken to the hospital; the driver of the Civic was speaking to police but was expected to go to the hospital on his own.

Numerous emergency management officials were called to the scene in addition to North Adams Fire and Police. North Adams Ambulance Service was remaining on the scene and setting up its triage tent. The state police were assisting and the accident reconstruction team was on the way. Clarksburg police were also assisting with traffic and Williamstown and Adams Village Ambulance Service was being called for backup coverage. Joseph Dean of Dean's Quality Auto was assessing the damage and getting a team in place for recovery and removal of the vehicles.

The highway is expected to be closed for several hours for investigation and cleanup.


Update: The driver of the runaway truck, Mihai Goaga, 39, of Revere, who is listed as a trucking operator since 2011 by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center. The driver of the ABF truck, Michael Lemieux, 53, of Bennington, Vt., is at Berkshire Medical Center.

Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said three flatbeds and a dump truck of debris were removed from the area on Monday night and a second dump truck was used on Tuesday morning for final cleanup. Dean's Towing called in a second heavy hauler to aid in the removal.

On Tuesday, the site was limited to one lane as Maxymillian Technologies and the state Department of Environmental Protection's Emergency Response Team removed soil along the flood-control chutes that had been contaminated by diesel fuel.

The sidewalk along the eastbound lane was covered in absorbent material. A strong smell of fuel was still evident at around noon. But fluid seen dripping from Goaga's orange trailer wasn't diesel, said the police director.

"It was partially loaded, it was about one-quarter filled with cooking oil," said Cozzaglio, however, he added that "we estimated approximately 100 gallons of diesel fuel was dumped out all over the area."

Cozzaglio said he and other veterans on the force could not remember any accidents of this magnitude.

"We've never had anything of this size and scope in this confined a space," he said. The emergency training between the various emergency responders came into play as multiple players — from state police to National Grid to local media — descended on the scene.

"That worked out well, that's something we can take out of it. ... I thought everything went pretty smooth for such a horrific event," said Cozzaglio.

North Adams officials have not yet spoken to Goaga but he is believed to have lost his brakes coming down west side of the Mohawk Trail. The accident occurred minutes later.

Cozzaglio confirmed a state trooper came up behind the truck on the descent and noticed the brakes smoking and attempted to stop it on the flatter section of the road approaching West Shaft Road.

"The trooper did make every attempt to try to stop the truck, he used his siren, his lights, the PA system, his radio ... he was trying to contact that truck driver to stop," said Cozzaglio.

It is likely Goaga was no longer able to brake the vehicle, which continued to careen down the highway. A driver who pulled out of Mohawk Forest estimated the truck was doing 65-75 mph as bore down on him; the driver, who posted his experience in the comments below, pulled into the VFW as the truck swerved into the eastbound lane to avoid him. Goaga is also believed to have tried to slow down by hitting the median at the Beaver Street intersection.

This isn't the first time a tractor-trailer has had brake issues coming down the steep trail and a number of readers have wondered why a truck ramp isn't available. Cozzaglio said having one would certainly help but he thinks too often truck drivers unfamiliar with the road overestimate their vehicle's abilities.

"The signage is good on the mountain but these tractor-trailer truck drivers don't heed them and once they get on the slope of the mountain it's too late. ...  He couldn't stop the big rig and this what we have. It's an unfortunate event."

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