December 19, 2014

Elyria
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29°F
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Commuter narrowly avoids decapitation during drive

COURTESY OF SUSAN ZAMBO

John Zambo drives nearly 100 miles round-trip every day from his home in Penfield Township to his job at the Robbins Company in Solon.

Morning and night, Zambo cautiously drives on Interstate 480, paying close attention to other motorists on the highway.

His quick reflexes prevented him from being decapitated.

About 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Zambo, 51, was driving west on I-480 when a piece of aluminum became airborne, crashed through his front windshield and then continued toward the rear of his 2011 Chevy Malibu, breaking the back windshield before flying back onto the highway.

“I was in the flow of traffic, and I glanced in the rearview mirror because a car had been following close,” Zambo said. “The guy was close for some time, but he just (passed me) to my right and when I looked back, I just saw it coming, and I ducked.”

There was no warning.

Zambo ducked his head, kept his hands on the steering wheel and continued to drive for a few seconds until he could safely pull over.

Using the car’s On-Star system, Zambo waited for help to arrive. First a Cleveland police officer arrived then told Zambo the area where the incident occurred was actually the Brook Park Police Department’s jurisdiction.

While waiting for another officer to arrive, the Cleveland police officer and a tow-truck operator began searching for the large item that was light enough to be airborne, yet strong enough to crash through two windows.

What they found was a 1-foot-wide, 4-foot-long and 1-inch-thick piece of aluminum that most likely came from the bottom of a semi-trailer.

“Most folks don’t react in time,” Zambo said.

Zambo said he and the officers were relieved that no other vehicles were involved.

“I was most nervous sitting on the (highway) berm with cars flying by,” Zambo said.

While Zambo’s car is being repaired, he and his wife, Sue, are renting a car.

As for the piece of aluminum that nearly struck Zambo, it’s in the trunk of his Malibu for now until the car is repaired. Once the car is fixed, Zambo plans to take the piece of metal into his garage and try to figure out what happened.

“Someone told me I should melt it down and make a cross out of it,” Zambo said.

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7243 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com.