All roadways reopened after truck crash on southbound I-79

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Twelve hours after a truck crashed today on a southbound Interstate 79 bridge that crosses Route 51 in Robinson, all roads have reopened

Back-ups lasted through the evening everywhere from I-79 southbound to Downtown to the Parkway West and North.

"It's already jammed," state police Trooper Robin Mungo said of Downtown arteries connecting the Parkway North inbound and the Parkway West outbound around 5 p.m. "It's been jammed since the detour."

PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said he recommends motorists check services like to determine how much traffic there is before choosing a route.

 "Tens of thousands of motorists use 79 in that area on a daily basis," he said.

Before the arteries could reopen, the truck and its contents had to be cleaned up, and the bridge underwent inspection, he said.

Neither PennDOT nor the trucking company has the equipment to remove the truck, part of which is hanging off the bridge, Mr. Cowan said. A crane company was contracted to assist in the recovery.

The southbound 2007 International Harvester 18-wheeler lost control and slammed into a jersey barrier around 9:15 a.m., spilling a non-hazardous dust, some of which fell to Route 51, causing that road to be closed in both directions. The crash also knocked out several PennDOT traffic cameras.

The driver of the truck, Barry Weems, 52, of Madison, Ohio, was not injured. It was unclear who he worked for.

The material that spilled on the road is Celite HyFlo. Robinson Township fire chief Ken Kisow said it's is a dried shell product. While it's labeled as food, it's used in swimming pool filters, he said. It is an irritant to the eyes and throat, but is considered non-hazardous, the chief said.

About an hour after the truck accident, a second southbound crash occurred in the backed-up traffic south of Mount Nebo Road, prompting police to block I-79 at the Parkway North split, sending all traffic onto the parkway.

State police said in a press release that Rajendra Nigam, 63, of Sewickley was driving a Mercedes-Benz GL450 southbound and failed to stop when she reached traffic stopped because of the overturned truck.

The Mercedes-Benz collided with the back of an Acura RDX, stopped in the center lane, pushing it across the left lane into the guide wires. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage.

Ciana Marie Cahill, 21, of Wexford, who was driving the Acura,was seriously injured and was transported to Allegheny General Hospital by ambulance. She suffered head injuries and was in surgery this afternoon, Trooper Mungo said.

Trooper Mungo said it is too early to determine whether charges will be filed in either crash, but it’s a possibility in the crash between the two vehicles, after the investigation is completed, she said.

"She did run into the back of a stopped vehicle," the trooper said.




Lexi Belculfine: or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. First Published August 14, 2014 12:00 AM

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