AKRON — The driver of a 12-wheel dump truck sounded his horn and frantically waved his arms to warn bystanders as his out-of-control vehicle sped down an incline toward a plaza and an intersection before crashing into a northeast Ohio river, witnesses said.
The truck hauling about 15 tons of sand became submerged upside down in the Cuyahoga River on Thursday. Rescuers tried unsuccessfully to get to the driver, 41-year-old Christopher Burgess of Ravenna, who died at the scene. No other injuries were reported.
Akron police said it appears the truck’s air brakes failed as it traveled down a road on a hill where signs warn truckers to use a low gear. Police estimate the truck’s speed was about 50 mph.
Witnesses praised the driver for maneuvering around a busy intersection, pedestrians and a strip mall, veering toward an embankment and away from traffic.
Trista Merendino said she saw the truck barrel through an intersection.
“You could tell he sacrificed himself so he wouldn’t harm others,” Merendino said. “I believe he did save other lives. My heart breaks for him.”
Margaret Paulin said she was working at a dry cleaning business in the truck’s path and watched through a window as the truck made a left turn toward the river to avoid striking the shopping center.
Paulin told WKYC-TV she doesn’t understand how the driver managed to miss all of the cars in the parking lot.
Treymaine Danzy told the Akron Beacon Journal he was in his car when the truck sped by.
“He made sure not to hit anybody. That was courageous of him,” Danzy said. “I just feel bad for the whole situation, but also blessed. A second later and he probably would have crushed me.”
Burgess was hauling the sand for Huber Trucking of Kent. Owner Jeff Huber watched as the truck was hauled out of the water and told WKYC-TV he wasn’t surprised that witnesses were describing the driver as a hero.
“That’s the kind of guy Chris was,” Huber said.