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COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS The driver of this truck was killed Wednesday night when a piece of electrical conduit broke off from the ceiling of the Lehigh Tunnel and flew through the windshield. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS The driver of this truck was killed Wednesday night when a piece of electrical conduit broke off from the ceiling of the Lehigh Tunnel and flew through the windshield.

Turnpike releases statement about tunnel incident

Friday, February 23, 2018 by TIMES NEWS STAFF in Local News

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has issued a statement about incident that resulted in the death of a truck driver Wednesday night.

A New Jersey man was killed after a piece of electrical conduit crashed through his windshield and struck him in the head inside the Lehigh Tunnel in Lehigh County.

State Police at Pocono said the incident occurred at 6:03 p.m. along Route 476 near mile marker 71.4 inside the Lehigh Tunnel in Washington Township.

“Our engineering department is still investigating the incident, and it is too early to comment on the specific cause,” said Carl DeFebo, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Police said the incident occurred while a truck tractor-trailer operated by Howard Sexton III, 70, of Mickleton, was traveling south in the Lehigh Tunnel when the piece broke off from the ceiling, passed through its windshield and hit him.

The vehicle continued to travel south for about 1 mile before final rest on the right shoulder, where Sexton was discovered by Turnpike Safety and State Police at Pocono deceased behind the wheel.

“The Lehigh Tunnel, like all turnpike tunnels, is subject to a biennial inspection,” DeFebo said.

The most recent inspection was September 2016, and the next inspection is scheduled for this September.

In December 2017, DeFebo said the commission advertised for bids for replacement of the lighting systems in both Lehigh tubes.

A contract is scheduled to be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder at the March 6 Turnpike Commission meeting.

Work is expected to get under way this spring.

Lehigh Tunnel construction began with the Northeast Extension in 1956.

Originally, the Lehigh Tunnel consisted of the northbound only tube. While this was sufficient in the early years of the Turnpike, increasing traffic demands and tourism in northeast Pennsylvania caused the Lehigh Tunnel to become a chokepoint, with traffic reducing from four to two lanes, according to PaHighways.com.

In 1989, work began to double the capacity with the construction of a new southbound only tube, with the original tube serving northbound. The project was completed in November 1991.