POTTER TOWNSHIP, CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– Around 7:30 a.m. Thursday, a tractor trailer driver heading westbound on Route 322 died after crashing off the edge of the road.
Police report the crash happened along a narrow section of Route 322, through Seven Mountains, adjacent to where new elevated highways are being built (that aim to improve traffic safety).
Officials say the truck was hauling metal and crashed where Route 322 meets Bloom Road, which leads to a few houses and private lodge off the highway.
Pennsylvania State Police released a crash report that said the truck driver mishandled the curve, driving into a guard rail before overturning down an embankment. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
Thursday, WTAJ spoke with a woman who was driving immediately in front of the tractor trailer and saw much of what happened.
“He was following me pretty close… going pretty fast around the turn,” said Tami Pooler, who witnessed the crash.
She went on: “He nicked the back of my truck and I looked in my rear-view mirror and he flipped over and the tailgates were flying all over the place…”
“Do you know what caused the accident?,” WTAJ asked.
Pooler wasn’t positive, but said: “He was swerving back-and-forth and lost control and he had nowhere to go. Either hit me and push me into another big rig, or hit the brick wall, or I think he veered to the right and lost control—and just flipped.”
In reference to driving through the Potters Mills Gap area Pooler told WTAJ:
“It’s dangerous going up in there, I had a friend who actually last year—right where this happened… she ended up dying… a big rig hit her.”
She added: “I used to drive four times a day over that mountain. It’s ridiculous–it’s very dangerous. I think a lot of the tractor trailers from the area don’t know what’s going on and they tend to go a little faster than they should…. not knowing what’s around the bend.”
Currently WTAJ is not reporting the victim’s identity until his next-of-kin is informed.
The Centre County Coroner reports that an autopsy is being performed Thursday evening. Its results should be released before Thursday’s 11:00 p.m. newscast.
Thursday was the last day of planned traffic delays related to construction on the new the Potters Mills Gap highway. Beams for bridges were set Thursday following the crash, which occurred more than an hour before intermittent traffic delays were planned. PennDOT says the new highway will be open by November, 2020.
Witnesses to the accident told WTAJ that the faster the new road opens, the safer they’ll feel driving in the area.
PennDOT reported heavy traffic in the area on Thursday morning. Currently, the road is back open.