Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Truck driver dies on I-471 despite valiant rescue effort

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Fire Department rescue personnel pull a driver of a semi from his cab where he was trapped for nearly an hour.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
Despite being rescued in dramatic fashion Monday morning, the driver of a bread truck who flipped his rig in a traffic-snarling wreck near downtown Cincinnati died of his injuries.

Ronald A. Cobb, 41, of Alexandria was impaled through his abdomen by a piece of metal when his truck full of thousands of loaves of Butternut white bread wobbled and tipped over on the on-ramp from Fort Washington Way east onto Interstate 471 in Kentucky. Cobb was trapped in the cab for about 30 minutes before portions of the cab could be cut away and he was flown by Air Care helicopter to University Hospital, where he died.

The 9:41 a.m. crash closed I-471 traffic in both directions for hours. The ramp from northbound Interstate 71 reopened about 2:30 p.m., but the ramp from southbound I-71 was closed until about 7 p.m..

"When (Cobb) came out and was still conscious, it just blew me away," said District 1 Fire Chief Anson Turley, who added that Monday's accident was the most difficult extraction he's seen in 16 years with the department.

"Everyone knew their job, and they got out there and did it," Turley said.

Cobb told investigators his air brakes went out. Witnesses said the vehicle began to wobble near the start of the on-ramp.

He hit the concrete barrier on the left side of the curved entrance ramp, Cincinnati police said, then flipped.

"It looked like he was sliding on ice," said Jeff Mahavey of New Richmond, who was driving a red Chevrolet Cavalier on I-471 approaching the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge when the truck nearly toppled onto him.

When the truck flipped, it became wedged between the two on-ramps.

If the truck had flipped earlier on the ramp, it could have fallen some 50 feet to a parking lot between the two on-ramps.

Loaves of bread spilled onto the interstate, and the upside-down cab of the truck crumpled like an accordion.

Rescue workers had to first stabilize the wobbly tractor-trailer, then cut away pieces of the cab to extract the driver.

Officials closed traffic on both sides of the bridge during the extraction because the bridge shakes and bounces when traffic crosses it.


Enquirer reporter Jane Prendergast contributed. E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com

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