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Drivers injured in two truck collision

| Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004

KITTANNING TWP. -- At least two people were injured when a tractor-trailer and a flatbed truck collided head-on yesterday morning along Route 422 past Altmeyer's Western Wear near Blaney and Johnston roads.

Both trucks were pulling an empty load when the crash happened at about 9:45 a.m., state police said.

"It's a good thing the trucks were empty or someone would have been killed," said Dwayne Foley of Saltsburg who was one of the first to arrive at the accident scene. "If there had been any weight on the flatbed it would have taken it over the guiderail and down over the hill."

Police said Willis Yonker Jr., 65, of Needmore was traveling westbound along Route 422 in his empty 1994 International tractor-trailer when he swerved to avoid colliding with a car that was stopped to turn left across traffic. Yonker's truck jackknifed, crossed into the other lane and collided head-on with an empty 2001 Freightliner flatbed truck operated by David Lauver, 56, of Port Trevorton traveling eastbound.

Police said Yonker was flown by emergency medical helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh for precautionary measures. Witnesses at the scene said Yonker appeared to have a possible broken wrist and complained of pain in his rib area.

Lauver was also injured in the crash. Police did not provide details of his injuries. Police listed a passenger in Lauver's truck as Janice McWilliams, 42, of Port Trevorton, but did not indicate if she had been injured.

After the impact, Lauver's truck came to rest against guard rails, police said.

"I saw all that white smoke coming from the truck and I knew it wasn't going to stop," said Joel Breghenti, an East Franklin Township firefighter whose pick-up truck was behind the car making the turn. "I gunned it. I thought I'm getting out of here."

Breghenti pulled his pick-up off to the right side of the roadway to avoid the out-of-control truck. His truck was not hit.

Foley said he noticed that one of the trucks was spewing diesel fuel up into the air. Diesel fuel and antifreeze spilled onto the roadway and had to be cleaned up by Armstrong County's hazardous materials team.

"I was a fireman at one time and the fireman in me kicked in," Foley said. "Some of us ran over to the drivers to see what we could do."

Traffic was halted for several hours along Route 422 while authorities worked to investigate and clear the crash site.

Armstrong 911 said Kittanning Township, Elderton, West Kittanning and Manor Township fire departments and Kittanning Ambulance responded to the crash.

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