For immediate release
May 11,2006 - Chester County Mother of 7, Infant nearly killed by 20 ton dumptruck
Around noon this day, Diane Connell was returning home from vegetable shopping in local Oxford, PA. Traveling with her was her mother Sandra Holland, visiting from New Jersey, and 8 month old, 12 pound baby girl Laura Elizabeth in the backseat. Diane was slowing on her approach to the Lincoln University intersection of 896 and Baltimore Pk, just south of US Route 1.
Approaching the 4-way intersection, headed southbound on 896, was one "Jose Lopez", transporting a 5 ton load of dirt, in a large 20 ton dumptruck. Jose apparently was suffering brake loss. He couldn't stop. Rather than travel straight through the intersection and avoid a certain disaster with the clearly visible approaching SUV, he decided to try and navigate the sharp right hand turn. The fully loaded truck tipped over onto its left hand side, just narrowly avoiding crushing the 3 occupants in the other vehicle.
"It was like slow motion watching this huge dumptruck falling on me"
Dirt, manure, and shattered glass filled the cabin of the Explorer as it was thrust against the concrete curb and up onto the embankment by the force of the truck and the 5 tons of mother nature spilling from the truck. Diane screamed as she turned around and couldn't see baby Laura who was buried beneath the dirt that had been thrown into the back seat. She quickly helped her mother exit the vehicle, embedding shards of glass into her calves as she raced to get Laura out of the vehicle.
Jose Lopez emerged from the dumptruck unscathed. He had no words or actions of remorse or concern for the 3 women who he'd just nearly just sent to an untimely death, as they boarded the ambulance to local Jennersville Regional Hospital. Ironically enough, Mrs. Holland, nearly blind and disabled from a 40 year personal battle with Myasthenia Gravis first approached Lopez to make sure HE WAS OKAY!
So, what makes this story anything more than just an unfortunate accident in a local rural community? The actions of Mr. Lopez compel us to ponder the following. First, one initially can't help but think here is an illegal alien being taken advantage of by a local farming interest. He is probably unlicensed and probably isn't Jose Lopez, really. There are probably a multitude of Jose Lopezes in questionable employ of Zavala Mushrooms of Oxford, PA. First one out grabs the next valid license off the counter, or pulls the license copy off the visor whenever he gets into trouble. Granted, that's speculation, but we're talking about businesses finely tuned in duping the system in their employment practices.
But, this is more than just a story about possible illegal unlicensed drivers traveling the rural roads. This is a story of dangerous poorly maintained farm vehicles which travel these rural roads each and everyday - sharing the road with local school buses, cyclists, and children who just may happen to cross the road in front of the next Jose Lopez. You see, this 20 ton missile was traveling with faulty brakes, only one working brake to be exact. Jose Lopez probably knew this, which explains why he had enough foresight to downshift into the intersection and proceed with the right hand turn, instead of following logic and traveling through. He was on a return trip to the farm, and it was probably always his plan to get there managing a truck with no brakes. That's why he turned right. He thought he could. He'd probably navigated the same journey before with the same brake conditions. This one just got away from him. As the tow truck driver later observed, "He only had one working brake. 3 brakes don't fail all at the same time." However, driving this dangerous 20 ton overloaded truck on these rural roads with no brakes isn't breaking any laws. Zavala or Jose won't be cited for any safety violations. This 10-wheel just shy of a semi-tractor trailor vehicle is registered as an "agricultural vehicle", and is therefore exempt from any inspections as long as it is on anything work related within a 25 mile radius of home base. It is likely Jose doesn't even require a commercial driver license (CDL) to operate it. These antiquated laws are putting this increasingly urban, and decreasingly rural, Chester County residents at risk to save the cost of what? Subjecting a 20 ton missile to regular inspection and repairs to verify that it has more than one working brake? We're not talking about a old John Deere that our grandpop used to drive 15MPH down the road getting in everyone's way. We're talking about a commercially operated Big Rig that is driving through the equally large loophole in the law.
Likely there is nothing preventing Zavala sending one of his Jose's to pick the truck up directly from Null's Towing come Monday morning, and have it out picking up the next load, faulty brakes intact. Give me a brake!
The 20 ton dumptruck drawfs the Ford Explorer which was carrying Diane, Laura, and Sandra Holland.
The driver side took the immediate impact of the overturned dump truck.
Thankfully the rear canopy railing scraped the side of the truck rather than breaching the passenger compartment with Tiny Laura only inches away.
The passenger side was thrust against the curb and forced up onto the embankment.
The alloy wheels are shattered from the impact with the curbside, and runner board dangles.
The cab filled with dirt, manure, and shattered glass covering Baby Laura in the backseat.
Recent photo of Diane and her 7 kids.
Jose approached the intersection in this direction. Diane would have been clearly visible coming toward the intersection from the right.
Diane approached from this direction.
The resident Larry McKnight got a new coat of topsoil. Larry was a hero, managing the situation and assisting Jose to shut off his truck and working to get all the passengers out safely. "I've lived here 33 years and knew I didn't want to look at the front of the vehicle", he said. Experience has taught him to expect the gruesome worst.