By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
A dramatic seven-vehicle pileup at a busy Cullman intersection Friday afternoon left three people injured after a truck driver apparently suffered a heart attack and lost control of his tractor-trailer rig.
The identities of the truck driver and others involved in the accident were not available Friday night. Sgt. Jeff Warnke of the Cullman Police Department said he did not anticipate charges related to the accident. The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. at the intersection of Alabama Highway 157 and U.S. Highway 31.
“The accident was caused by a medical situation; it was beyond the driver’s control,” Warnke said.
A Venture Express diesel truck reportedly careened into the intersection of Alabama Highway 157 and U.S. Highway 31 and hit six other vehicles, after the diesel driver lost consciousness. Warnke said that eyewitness accounts of the accident noted that the driver of the rig may have become unconscious 100 yards before striking the cars.
“It was so fast, but it looked like the 18-wheeler didn’t even hit its brakes,” a witness from a nearby business at the scene said. “I called 911 and they were here as fast as I could walk outside.”
According to police reports and eyewitness accounts, the diesel truck was traveling west on Alabama Highway 157 and crashed into the rear of vehicles that were idled at the traffic light. Warnke said the six vehicles impacted by the truck were all westbound.
“They never knew it was coming. They were just sitting there waiting for the light to change,” Warnke said.
At least two of the vehicles were pushed into the intersection by the impact of the truck. Police did not have an estimation of how fast the tractor-trailer was traveling at the time of the accident.
“Witnesses say he was slumped over at the wheel, after apparently suffering from a medical issue,” Cullman Police Sergeant Jeff Warnke said at the scene.
Warnke said Friday night that the driver had suffered a massive heart attack was being transferred from Cullman Regional Medical Center to Huntsville Hopsital’s cardiac unit.
A damaged van, truck and sedan could be seen at the intersection, while a Toyota Corolla was all but crushed underneath the front of the diesel truck.
“We were the first car stopped at the light, but didn’t really see anything because it all happened behind us,” one driver involved in the crash, who declined to give his name, told The Times. “The diesel plowed through the intersection and just pushed the rest of us through.”
Several police and fire responders worked the crash, and crews were still working Friday night under the supervision of the Cullman County Emergency Management Agency to clear a large diesel fuel leak that contaminated the scene.
“Diesel is not a real volatile fuel, but it created a mess and it’s an environmental hazard when it gets on the ground. Kelly Allen from EMA is working with another group from Tennessee to get the fuel up,” Warnke said.
Editor David Palmer contributed to this report.
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.