'A remarkable survival story' Police amazed truck driver escaped serious injury in Route 147 accident
POINT TOWNSHIP - The police chief of Point Township was amazed a Canadian truck driver survived following an early Thursday morning accident that ripped the cab of a tractor trailer to pieces and spilled dozens of bleach containers into the brush surrounding the wreckage.
Raveendranathan Nalliah, 55, of North York, Ontario, who was listed in fair condition at Geisinger Medical Center. Danville, Thursday evening, was stuck inside the wreckage for two hours along Route 147 before rescue personnel could free him.
He was transported to Geisinger via Life Flight, where he was being treated for "non-life threatening injuries," including a couple scratches and a broken leg, said Point Township Police Chief Joshua VanKirk.
"It was probably one of the more remarkable survival stories I've seen here," he said.
The crash brought out Northridge Group Inc., of Northumberland, to clean up the spilled cleaning supplies and shut down parts of Route 147 for 11 hours.
The Sloughton trailer was from J.K.N.G. Transport, of 920 Marl Meadow Court, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
Passerby called 9-1-1
The accident was first noticed by Michael Bowersox, 23, of Montandon, at 4:23 a.m. when he was traveling south on Route 147 to work the morning shift at Bon Ton at Susquehanna Valley Mall, Hummels Wharf.
"I saw the truck on the side of the road, and I first thought he was taking a nap, but as I got closer, it seemed like something was wrong," Bowersox said.
When he stopped, he called 9-1-1, and the driver started talking to him.
"I said, 'Thank you, Jesus, you're alive,'" Bowersox said.
Township police responded to the accident at 4:25 a.m. on Route 147 near 14th Street.
Nalliah was traveling south toward Northumberland when police say he fell asleep at the wheel and struck a utility pole and a large oak tree. The force of the collision knocked over the tree, and the cab continued up the trunk before coming to final rest on the downed tree in the brush.
The oak, which was approximately 20 inches in diameter, would have likely "shredded" a car even worse than the truck, the chief said.
VanKirk, who talked to Nalliah shortly after 1 p.m. at the hospital, said the driver claimed he was swerving to avoid a herd of deer, but the tire marks did not support that story.
Rather, the chief said, the marks show he traveled straight off the road into the brush.
With no witnesses, it could not be determined whether the man was speeding.
Rescue personnel from Point Township, Northumberland and Sunbury worked for hours to extricate Nalliah while medics from AREA Services and Americus Ambulance administered care. They were also working against a continously shifting vehicle.
"He was buried under it. They were up to their elbows and very aggressively taking pieces off," VanKirk said. "The fire crews did an awesome job."
Nalliah, who was seat-belted, was awake and coherent during the extrication, VanKirk said.
When he was freed from the debris, Nalliah was taken to the landing zone near the Priestley Elementary School, and transported to Geisinger.
Police have not made a decision whether to cite him with any traffic violations, VanKirk said.
Cleanup at site
At the scene of the accident early Thursday afternoon, a Northridge excavator was scooping up debris from below the bank and collecting it in one site.
The trailer was hooked up to a Sunbury Motors tow truck. Damage to that structure was limited to the front. The cab, which was in pieces, was strapped on a trailer.
Other pieces of the vehicle were scattered throughout the area. A red piece was hanging from a bush, parts of the seat were scattered throughout the brush, and VanKirk said he found other pieces along the railroad tracks several hundred feet away.
Detour in effect
Route 147 between Ridge Road and Fourteenth Street was shut down, and traffic was being detoured from Route 11 to Route 15 and Route 45, or the reverse, to get around the closure, according to Rick Mason, public information officer for PennDOT Maintenance 3-0 in Montoursvillve.
At 1:20 p.m., Route 147 was opened to one lane in each direction; all lanes were reopened and the crash scene was cleared by 3:30 p.m., Mason said.