By David Palmer
The Cullman Times
Three local physicians played a role in saving the life of a truck driver during a seven-vehicle pileup at one of the area’s busiest intersections Friday afternoon.
The wreck at Alabama Highway 157 and U.S. Highway 31 was apparently caused when the driver of a tractor-trailer rig suffered a heart attack while approaching the intersection. His massive vehicle struck the rear of a pickup truck and started a chain-reaction of crashes, Sgt. Jeff Warnke of the Cullman Police Department said.
“It was a domino effect from what we can gather from eyewitness reports,” Warnke said. “The driver of the tractor-trailer had just left Venture Express on Child Haven Road with a full load. He was probably traveling 40 miles per hour or less when he lost consciousness.”
The driver of the rig was identified as Michael Haltwinger, 53, of Huntsville. Three physicians came to his aid shortly after the wreck occurred.
Dr. Bill Peinhardt, who Warnke said must have been in the backed up traffic, along with Dr. Scott Warner and Dr. Jeremy Barlow began efforts to resuscitate Haltwinger. The driver was soon taken to Cullman Regional Medical Center and later transferred to Huntsville Hospital’s cardiac unit.
“Dr. Barlow was actually riding in the car with his wife, and their car was one of those struck during the accident,” Warnke said. “Dr. Warner is an emergency doctor and monitors our radio traffic and offers assistance.”
Warnke does not expect charges related to the accident, noting that the investigation shows the driver’s medical condition was the cause.
While Haltwinger suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized, Ruth Hagemore, 69, and her son, Jay Hagemore, 50, both of Vinemont, were taken to CRMC with injuries. They were in a Toyota Corrolla that was smashed by the impact of the accident.
The tractor-trailer rig was heading west on Highway 157. The other vehicles were all idling at the traffic signal waiting for the light to change when they were struck.
Other drivers whose vehicles were damaged included Heather A. Fulenwider, 37, of Falkville, Helen Malin, 30, of Cullman, Marjorie W. Franks, 60, of Warrior, and Lori D. Barlow, of Cullman.
Cullman County Emergency Management Agency personnel were also called to the scene because of a massive spill of diesel fuel. Most of the problem was contained by Friday evening, but some cleanup work will have to be completed by Monday, Warnke said.
David Palmer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.