Movie captures snowplow coerced off road, down 300-foot embankment, Deseret News

Movie captures snowplow coerced off road, down 300-foot embankment

SPANISH FORK — A snowplow clearing snow in Spanish Fork Canyon was shoved off the road by a passing semitrailer and flipped down a steep embankment Thursday, investigators say.

The dramatic crash was caught on movie and prompted Utah Department of Transportation officials Friday to warn drivers to stay behind snowplows.

Terry Jacobson, a 23-year veteran of UDOT’s snow removal services, was westbound on U.S. Six when a semitrailer attempted to pass his snowplow on the right. Investigators say the semitrailer caught the wing of the plow and coerced it off the road, pushing it across oncoming traffic and through the guardrail before it went rolling down a 300-foot embankment.

The safety features of the plow kept Jacobson alive, but the passenger side of his vehicle was demolished, said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. Utah Highway Patrol troopers were able to quickly react, and a number of motorists stopped to help extricate Jacobson from the crash, he said. The driver of the semitrailer stopped instantly and cooperated with the UHP.

“The safest place to be is behind these trucks at all times,” Braceras said. “A good rule of thumb is about a football field of distance.”

Had the semitrailer not attempted to pass, this collision would have been avoided, he said.

Braceras stressed the intensive schedule and dedicated work of the snow removal crews, who often work seven days a week, day and night. He emphasized the importance of safety and the influence that such an accident often has across the transportation department.

“Members of Terry’s squad would have been here, but they are out repairing the guardrail as we speak,” he said Friday.

Much of the details of the accident were caught on a dashcam by truck driver Lemalie Laulu.

“What makes me want to have a dashcam is because whatever I say, it’s always going to be the truck driver’s fault if … someone attempts to cut me off,” he said.

That’s why he was rolling movie on his drive along U.S. Six just before noon Thursday.

“It was a bad road. It was greasy. The snow was coming down. I was driving up Price Canyon and I figured, ‘You know what? I’m going to turn my dash cam on. You never know.'”

Laulu was just east of the Diamond Fork turnoff when the snowplow going the opposite direction crossed over his lanes of traffic and went over the side of the highway.

“Next thing I knew the plow truck was going down the cliff,” he said.

It flipped several times, and Laulu said he instantly stopped to see how he could help.

“All I could see was the front axle of the truck, the plow draping on a tree, and I couldn’t see the truck. It was going further down the cliff,” he said.

Jacobson is still recovering from the incident. Lundell noted that he is strongly bruised and sore and may have a concussion, but he is expected to recover.

Thursday’s collision was the fourth involving a UDOT snowplow since the year embarked, but Braceras said this was the most severe.

Laulu knows there could have lightly been a different outcome.

“I spotted the plow truck just right in front of us. If I was a few seconds earlier, I would have been his cushion going down that cliff,” he said.

Neil Lundell, UDOT’s Region three supervisor, said the movie reminded him of similar crashes he experienced when he drove a snowplow.

“All of our drivers know this, it’s not a matter of if you’re going to get in an accident, it’s a matter of when,” Lundell said.

Laulu echoed the warnings from UDOT officials, cautioning drivers to have patience.

“I want people to realize in this type of weather, any kind of weather, just slow down and let the people who are attempting to help us drive securely and do their job,” he said.

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