A stretch of Ohio 4 was shut down most of Thursday when a semi trailer burst into flames after colliding with another tractor-trailer.
Bellevue Fire Chief Sherrard "Jiggs" Barr said the driver of the burned-out tractor-trailer was lucky to be alive.
"He escaped the cab by busting out the glass and crawling through," Barr said.
The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. in front of Angela Schank's home.
"I was painting and heard a loud boom -- like a sonic boom -- and went running for the phone," Schank said.
The Norwalk post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said James Seals, 55, of Eaton, was southbound in a 2000 International tractor-trailer when he drifted off the right side of the road and then crossed the centerline after pulling back onto the roadway. The vehicle struck a northbound 1997 International semi carrying plastic products and driven by Timothy Kruse, 61, of Bellefontaine.
The cab of Seals' vehicle detached and overturned in the middle of the road moments before the trailer burst into flames.
Schank said the explosion was almost immediate and she feared someone was hurt.
"I called 911 but no one answered. I'm assuming everyone in this area was dialing at that moment," she said.
The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. on Ohio 4 between Ohio 20 and 113 near Lyme Village and closed off traffic on 4 late into the evening Thursday.
Seals and Kruse were taken by ambulance to The Bellevue Hospital and were treated for minor injuries.
Tim Coleman, transit administrator with the Ohio Department of Transportation, shook his head as he surveyed the accident scene.
"The damage to the road won't be known until the trucks are cleared," Coleman said. "The spilled oil doesn't make the situation any better because it breaks down the pavement, but if everything goes well, we should be able to re-open around 7 or 8 (Thursday evening)."
With orange cones preventing entry onto Ohio 4, curious drivers and nearby residents peered from windows to see what the commotion was about.
With the thickness of smoke still in the air, the smell of exhausted flames and the diesel fuel stained pavement, the accident scene had the feel of a safety awareness video intended to scare young drivers.
Kruse's tractor-trailer was still operable and he pulled it off the road, but the hollowed out and charred remains of Seals' vehicle rested near the berm, destroyed inside and held together by one intact but fire weakened wall.
Barr praised the quick and efficient response by Bellevue firefighters, North Central EMS, the Huron County EMA and ODOT.
"It took about 45 minutes to get under control and put out," he said, "Initially, about six men were out here until back-up arrived."