Trash truck tragedy: ‘I lost both legs and quite a bit more of myself’

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Ohio House voted Wednesday to require drivers to move over, slow down for waste, recycling trucks.

On Wednesday, the Ohio House passed a bill that would require drivers to move over for trash trucks. But it will be 22 years too late to prevent the horrific accident that injured Kenny Lawson.

RELATED: Ohio House votes to force drivers to move over for trash trucks

In March of 1996, Lawson and another worker were making the first stop of the morning along Stroop Road near Braddock Street in Kettering when a driver doing an estimated 40 mph plowed into the back of their trash truck. Lawson was caught in the middle.

“I lost both legs and quite a bit more of myself,” Lawson said.

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Lawson, who was 25 at the time of the crash, now lives in Germantown.

The proposal to place a “move over” requirement on drivers encountering trash trucks with flashing lights — as currently required for public safety vehicles — was approved in October by the Senate, 32-0.

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Refuse and recycling collectors have the fifth-highest death rate among civilian occupations in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2016, 31 died — about two-thirds the result of transportation incidents.

“People just don’t pay attention,” said Lawson, who was working in the family waste business when he was hit. “We try to prepare and keep ourselves safe out there, but without this law they just come flying up on the trucks anyway.”

Lawson sustained injuries to other parts of his body. He nearly lost an arm. He broke a hand. He had a six-inch hole that allowed doctors to “reach inside my back and come out at another spot.” He underwent months of surgeries, including skin grafts.

“Other than that, I did make it and I’m fine,” he said this week.

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The injury changed his life, just not as dramatically as first imagined.

For one thing, it kept him from following his father’s footsteps and taking over the refuse-hauling business that had been in the family 57 years. Instead, he’s worked in the electronics department at the Centerville Sam’s Club for the past 14 years. He’s with the same woman he married before the accident, but said their children sometimes missed out on sharing activities with their dad.

“I enjoy life. I do everything I used to do, I just have to do it different,” he said.

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