First responders call I-376 crash between SUV, tow truck a ‘near miss’ for everyone involved

MONROEVILLE, Pa. — The passenger side of an SUV was torn away after it struck a tow truck just before 6:30 p.m. Monday.

It happened on eastbound I-376 near the Penn Hills - Monroeville line and first responders say it should be eye-opening for everyone.

“Like a can opener. It completely opened the passenger side,” said Penn Hills Number 7 Fire Chief Bill Jeffcoat.

The tow truck was parked with hazard lights on when hit. No one was sitting on the passenger side of the vehicle and no one was hurt in the crash.

“[The driver] wasn’t paying attention and hit the side of the parked flatbed tow truck,” Jeffcoat said. “It was definitely a near miss for all parties involved.”

A similar incident involving one of its own firefighters led the Penn Hills Fire Department to invest in a device that alerts nearby drivers that crews are working on the side of the road.

It’s been in use for under a year.

RELATED COVERAGE >> Penn Hills firefighters using new technology to alert drivers of nearby emergencies

Pennsylvania has what’s called “The Move Over Law” in place to protect emergency responders. It requires drivers approaching an emergency response area to merge into a lane farther away or slow down.

“It’s a huge problem people don’t recognize as being a problem,” Todd Leiss said. He serves as Deputy Director of Training for the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.

“We try to tell people, don’t be a ‘D’ driver - a driver that’s drunk, drugged, drowsy, distracted,” he said.

“You look down at your phone, reach over for something, you already went 4-500 feet,” said tow truck driver John DeWees. He was hit in a construction zone eight years ago.

“We provide a service to help people, to get you guys home safe. All we ask for is to go home safe.”

It’s unclear if the driver of the SUV will face any charges.

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