Trucker killed by tunnel debris
A New Jersey man is dead after a piece of electrical conduit crashed through his truck windshield and struck him in the head inside the Lehigh Tunnel, Washington Township.
State Police at Pocono said the incident occurred 6:03 p.m. along Route 476 near mile marker 71.4 inside the tunnel.
Police said the tractor-trailer, operated by Howard Sexton III, 70, of Mickleton, N.J., was traveling south in the Lehigh Tunnel when the piece broke off from the ceiling, passed through its windshield and hit him.
The truck continued to travel south for about 1 mile before final rest on the right shoulder, where Sexton was discovered deceased behind the wheel by Turnpike Safety and State Police at Pocono.
Sexton was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m. by Deputy Coroner Jason Nicholas at the scene.
An autopsy will be performed Feb. 23 to determine the exact cause of death.
His next of kin was notified by the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office.
The investigation remains open.
Any possible witnesses of the crash are urged to contact investigation trooper Ronald P. Zanella at PSP Pocono at 570-443-9511.
Traffic was backed up on Route 209 this morning because of the southbound lanes of the Lehigh Tunnel being closed.
Carl DeFebo, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said the turnpike, which had been closed southbound at Mahoning Valley, had reopened around 8 a.m.
DeFebo said there was a two-way traffic condition in the northbound tube, so for northbound and southbound traffic coming up the northbound extension, they were going to stay in the right lane.
The southbound tube was closed as some cleanup and work and repairs took place in the southbound tube where the incident occurred, he said.
“These crossovers are something we commonly do,” DeFebo said.
DeFebo said the incident started at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday inside the southbound Lehigh Tunnel after a report of several vehicles striking debris in the tunnel.
That resulted in the Turnpike Commission closing the tunnel. A detour was implemented at 7 p.m. for people to re-enter the turnpike in the Lehigh Valley.
DeFebo said it lasted less than two hours.
“From an impact standpoint, it was a prolonged southbound closure, but as far as the impact to traffic, it looks like traffic was getting off pretty smoothly at Mahoning Valley,” he said. “It was a long closure, but its impact to traffic wasn’t overwhelming or significant.”
Traffic from the turnpike slowed the commute on Route 209 this morning.