By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO June 22, 2001 It was one hell of a ride, said Joe Baransky, the driver of an 18-wheeler that turned over on the infamous Dead Mans Curve near Wurtsboro.
The early morning accident occurred on a sharp curve along Route 17 between exits 112 & 113. The stretch of road is known for numerous accidents.
According to Baransky, he was headed to Yonkers from Kirkwood when a car ahead of him pulled out right in front of his rig, apparently attempting to pass the vehicle ahead.
I slammed on my brakes, and the trailer came over onto the shoulder of the road here, but the grade was too steep to pull it back, and she just flipped over, he said.
It started tipping, and I said to my passenger a couple of times, This is not going to be good, recalled the 43-year-old Baransky, a resident of Binghamton. It flipped over on its side, and I was just watching the pavement go by my face.
Pete Gates, the passenger in the late model Volvo 18-wheeler owned by Willow Run Foods of Kirkwood, had just woken up from a nap when the accident happened.
It was pretty scary. It was a rough ride, said Gates. I was half asleep . . . and then there was a lot of glass spitting around.
The riders recalled that, after their rig slid to a grinding stop against the eastbound guardrail, only one motorist stopped to lend a hand.
After we came to a complete stop, this one guy held open the door so we could get out, said the driver. Then he took off on down the road . . . but Im glad that one guy stopped.
Both occupants of the truck were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. Neither reported being injured.
The belts probably saved us from going through the windshield, said Gates.
Bill Lothrop, chief of the Wurtsboro Fire Department, said the call came into his station from the Sullivan County 911 Center at approximately 6:45 a.m., moments after volunteer firefighters had returned to their station from dealing with wires down in the village. (Portions of the village were without power for some time.)
About 12 firefighters were assisted at the scene by a special traffic control crew from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT).
They jumped right in to help us, said Lothrop.
His reaction to hearing that only one passing motorist stopped to help?
Its no different than any other time, he said. This is a common occurrence out here. . . . People are so used to seeing accidents out here, they just dont stop.
According to Lothrop, motorists often dont realize how severe the bend known locally as Dead Mans Curve is when they enter it at excessive speed and then lose control after overcorrecting. In fact, several years ago, a trooper from the Wurtsboro barracks was killed there after being hit by a vehicle while assisting the occupants of another one.
In this case, no one died, but there was much to do to reopen several lanes of traffic on 17.
Luzon Environmental Services of Woodridge cleaned up spilled diesel fuel from the trucks ruptured tanks, and crews from several towing services helped remove frozen foods and dry goods from the overturned tractor trailer. After the rig was removed, firefighters washed down the roadway to remove small rivers of melted ice cream, as the odor of Carvel Ice Cream mingled with the smell of diesel fuel.
Reportedly, Baransky was ticketed for speeding and failure to complete his logbook. The accident was investigated by the New York State Police.