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Troopers: Garbage truck lacked lights, had poor reflective tape

Emil Whitis • Nov 30, 2011 at 1:01 PM

(UPDATED WITH FULL STORY)Authorities say a poorly marked Canfield-Hartley garbage truck may be to blame for a crash that pinned a sanitation worker between two vehicles in Monday night’s downpour. 

 Meanwhile Christopher Thompson, 39, got out of surgery at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Thompson’s friend Sue Meredith said doctors are optimistic he’ll make a full recovery.       

“Sounds like it’s going to be a long road to recovery,” Meredith said. “But he’s going to keep both his legs.”

At about 5:30 p.m. Monday a silver Chevrolet Malibu driven by Anthony Demore, 71, of Sandusky, slammed into the back of the garbage truck near the intersection of West Monroe Street and Gartland Avenue. The car wedged under the truck, trapping Thompson’s legs between the two vehicles. He fell face-down on the shattered windshield, struggling to get free, witnesses said.

Thompson’s co-worker James Gessner, 58, was the first of three people to call 911.

“We got an accident on Monroe Street,” Gessner tells the dispatcher while Thompson’s pleas for help penetrate the conversation. “A car hit the guy on the back of the truck.”

For about 45 minutes Thompson was trapped there in agony while firefighters worked to free him. They jacked the truck up and pulled the car from underneath.

“I hit the brakes as soon as I could,” said Demore, who survived the crash with minor bumps and bruises. “There weren’t any lights on (the truck). It was dark and raining.”

He said that, under the circumstances, the collision was “unavoidable.”

Troopers spent hours Tuesday recreating the scene in a dark garage. What they found at least partially corroborated Demore’s account.  

“The reflective tape (on the back of the truck) was very poor,” Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Wentworth said. “There were lights on the top that weren’t working.”

Wentworth said Thompson wasn’t wearing a reflective safety vest, either. Troopers staged photos behind the garbage truck with headlights focused on its back. A trooper stood behind the truck with and without a reflective vest.

“(With the vest) it was very apparent that the trooper was there,” Wentworth said. “With no vest the trooper kind of blended in with the back of the truck.”

Troopers also took daytime photos of the intersection.

Once troopers wrap up the investigation, they’ll send the report to Sandusky Municipal Court prosecutor Lynn Gast-King for consideration. It’ll be up to Gast-King what, if any, charges will be filed.  

“It’s not up to me to decide (who’s at fault),” Wentworth said. “That’s up to a judge or jury. ...My job is to document what happened.”

A secretary at W G Canfield said the company’s owner, Harry Kresser, declined comment.

“Our company doesn’t have any comment at this time,” the secretary said. “We just ask for the community’s prayers and support for the family effected.”

Demore also offered his sympathy and inquired about Thompson’s condition over the phone.  

“I feel sorry for the person, but there wasn’t anything I could have done to prevent it,” he said. “I regret it ever happened.”

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