Richard Wetzel, a kinesiology professor at Miami University Hamilton, is being credited with saving the life of a truck driver who crashed on northbound I-75 Monday afternoon and rolled his semi-trailer into on-coming lanes.
Wetzel, 61, from Sugarcreek Twp., stopped and helped the man whose semi then burst into flames around 2:40 p.m.
“I was very blessed to be at the right place at the right time,” said Wetzel, who is also a volunteer firefighter for the Sugarcreek Twp. Fire Department.
Scott Howard, 50, of Dayton was driving north on Interstate 75 between Ohio 129 and the Bethany Road bridge when his 2005 Freightliner struck the concrete median.
“Literally, the driver, kind of, snapped the wheel to the left,” Wetzel said. “I’m not sure whether he was cut off or whatever.”
The crash is still under investigation, but Sgt. Sean Wickman of the Hamilton post of the Ohio Highway Patrol confirmed “the driver said somebody cut off him off and he swerved left.”
The impact of the crash caused the cab and trailer to burst into flames and overturn into the southbound lanes. A billowing cloud of black smoke was visible for miles.
Wetzel stopped and helped Howard escape the truck cab before flames engulfed it.
“As I got, probably three or four feet away from the windshield, I saw the passenger side of the cab start to pop up a little bit, and I knew that somebody was trying to get out,” Wetzel said.
He was able to get the door open and help the driver out of the cab. Two other semi drivers stayed with Howard while Wetzel ran to check on the drivers of other card who wrecked trying to miss the semi.
Howard, of Dayton, was treated at and released from Atrium Medical Center in Middletown for minor injuries, according to the patrol. Wetzel was not injured.
“I think it’s really important to know that Scott, the driver, made it home,” Wetzel said. “To know that the other two truck drivers stopped and helped stop traffic.”
The overturned trailer struck a vehicle driven by Nick Smallwood, 28, of Franklin, who was headed south on 75. Smallwood was treated at West Chester Hospital and released.
Trevor Lutterbie, 18, of the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, swerved to avoid a collision while headed south on the interstate and was struck by a vehicle being driven by Stephen Roudebush, 28, of Springboro.
Neither Lutterbie nor Roudebush was injured, according to the patrol.
The crash scattered debris across the busy roadway and limited traffic in both directions of the interstate to one lane for several hours. Traffic also backed up on side roads where motorists detoured for alternate routes.
All northbound lanes were open about three hours after the crash and southbound lanes by around 8:30 p.m., Wickman said.
“For me, it’s the feeling that everyone was safe and everyone got to go home in one piece and everybody got to be with their family,” Wetzel said. “That’s the important aspect.”
Witnesses to the crash are asked to contact Trooper Rebecca Robinson, of the Hamilton patrol post, at 513-863-4608.
Staff Writer Layron Livingston contributed to this report.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.