CHURCHILL, Pa. — A tractor trailer with faulty brakes exited Interstate 376 on Friday afternoon and slammed into a line of cars at the Churchill exit, starting a chain reaction of crashes that injured 11 people.
“I heard noises that caught my attention from behind,” said Michael West.
Watch 11 @ 11 for more on this story, as we ask about possible charges being filed.
The noises West heard came from the semi slamming into cars one by one behind him along William Penn Highway.
Through his rearview mirror, West could see it was only a matter of time before his car was hit.
“Ii heard bang, bang, bang,” he said. “I think I was the third car that got hit and I hit the car in front of me.”
Churchill police told Channel 11 the driver of the semi came off 376 and lost his brakes. In the truck’s path: nine vehicles stopped at the light on Rodi Road.
The tractor-trailer belongs to Hinkle Trucking based in Riverton, West Virginia. It was carrying lime, according to county police.
“He was coming down the hill and stated that his brakes failed,” said Chief Robert Kujava. “The vehicles that were stopped at the red traffic signal, he struck them as they sat.”
Two women in their 70s who were first hit by the truck were taken to a hospital, one of them in serious condition. They are among nine who were taken to hospitals, with 11 total people injured.
“I just can't believe this happened,” said a woman named Erin. “You never think it will happen to you.”
She was with her brother and a friend, headed home from college, when they stopped at the light.
“It was a little chaotic,” she said. “We saw all the cars. We were like, ‘How did this happen?’”
Allegheny County Police are now reconstructing the accident to determine the cause. The crash shut down the exit, and backups built up in the Parkway East outbound lanes starting at the Old Route 22 exit.
“Worst crash I have been on and I have been an officer since 1979,” said Kujava.
Those who were able to walk away are grateful.
“Looking at the vehicle, I am glad to be talking to you,” West said. “It’s going to be a good Thanksgiving.”
THE TRUCKING COMPANY
Hinkle Trucking of Riverton, West Virginia, is authorized as a "for hire" trucking company for interstate business and the company is authorized to haul grain, feed, hay and commodities in dry bulk.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website, Hinkle Trucking has had the 16 violations in the past 24 months including:
- 5 – traffic light violation
- 7 - speeding violation
- 1 – seat belt violation
- 1 – violation for leaving the vehicle on a roadway
- 1 – violation reckless driving
- 1 – violation for having an authorized passenger on board
Channel 11 has reached out to Hinkle Trucking officials, who confirmed their truck was involved in the crash.
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