Four hurt when Audi slams fifth wheel
July 7, 2009
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper and the driver of a tow truck Sunday were injured when another driver hit a fifth wheel trailer parked on westbound Interstate 80.
According to the Highway Patrol, a pickup truck that had been pulling the fifth wheel wasn’t drivable and needed towing after the truck lost a wheel when lug nuts came loose.
The traffic accident occurred at about 2:40 p.m. when the truck was struck by another driver, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Cameron Roden said.
"They were on the left shoulder at Kimball Junction," Roden said. "They were hooking up the fifth wheel to the second tow truck when an individual fell asleep in an Audi and drifted off to the left The fifth wheel went into the other three individuals who were standing there."
The trooper needed stitches in his left hand to close a cut he suffered falling over a cable barrier in the highway median, Roden said, adding that the owner of the fifth wheel received minor injuries.
The most seriously injured was Park City Towing co-owner Dave Belcher, who is 57 years old. Belcher was working to attach his tow truck to the fifth wheel when the trailer was hit.
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"Dave Belcher was trying to get the hitch on when the guy hit the back of the trailer and pushed the trailer up against the truck," said Brad Belcher, who works at Park City Towing. "Dave got his hand pinned between the fifth wheel kingpin and the truck."
Dave Belcher yelled at the owner of the fifth wheel to pull the tow truck forward so he could free his hand.
"It was just hanging by a thread," Brad Belcher said about his brother’s thumb. "Basically, they just told him to slip his glove back on and just keep everything in his glove."
Doctors are hopeful they saved Belcher’s thumb with more than four hours of surgery Sunday night.
"His thumb was reattached," Brad Belcher said. "They have him in observation and if it doesn’t take, and he doesn’t get circulation up in the thumb, they’ll have to look at some other options."
The beefy design of the hitch on the fifth wheel might have saved Belcher’s life, his brother said.
"It could have been way worse," Brad Belcher said.
A smaller trailer with a hitch that does not attach inside the bed of a pickup truck could have caused more serious injuries, he said.
"It would have pinned him if it would have been a regular trailer," Brad Belcher said.
Meanwhile, the driver of the Audi, 48-year-old John R. Payne, of the Park City area, suffered minor injuries and was issued a citation, Roden said.
Roden said Payne was charged with improper lane travel and failure to move over to avoid an officer.
Two travel lanes on westbound Interstate 80 were closed for about an hour as troopers cleaned up from the crash, Roden said.
Belcher and Payne were taken in an ambulance to a Salt Lake City hospital. The hand of the trooper was treated at a Park City clinic.