Witness: Turnpike tanker driver ‘gave his own life’ to save others
The driver of a truck on the New Jersey Turnpike whose dashcam captured Wednesday's fatal tanker accident says the driver "gave his own life" to avoid hitting other vehicles.
New Jersey State Police said the driver of a tanker truck lost control when he tried to avoid hitting mattresses and box springs in his lane.
Dashcam video captured by Michigan trucker Kevin Hauer shows the tanker swerving across three lanes from the left lane before going through the guard rail on the right shoulder and bursting into flames. The driver, yet to be identified by State Police, was trapped and died inside the truck.
Hauer also shared a second video with New Jersey 101.5 taken moments before the accident showing the white van with mattresses on top. The video also shows the tanker truck passing Hauer's truck in the left lane approaching the split of the northbound Turnpike for the eastern and western spurs.
Hauer told New Jersey 101.5 believes believes the accident was preventable.
"The way those mattresses were on top of that van were directly related to that man's death." Hauer said the driver had "other options" to secure the mattresses.
State Police said a Honda CRV was also involved in the crash but the driver was not injured.
Hauer told New Jersey 101.5 that had the driver not cut to the right to avoid whatever vehicle was in front of him "he would have definitely caused a lot more injury if not more death."
As a trucker, Hauer said, a driver's thought in such a situation is "What is your out.?Do I have an out? Do I have a way to stop and prevent other people from getting hurt?"
He said the driver was not able to correct once he made the turn to the right.
"I believe he saved many lives" by his action.
Hauer recalled getting out of the truck before rescue crews arrived to try and help the driver "but when I got over there it was hard to tell what the front or the side of the truck was. It was a fireball. It felt like the hair on my leg was scorched."
Hauer has since began his trip home to New Haven, Mich.
"I've seen a lot of things on the road. It typically doesn't happen right in front of you. This was all right there," he said.
The western spur of the Turnpike reopened around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday morning after a crane lifted the remains of the truck from the road,