Tractor trailer driver crashes truck slides down embankment
MOUNT ULLA — After nearly two hours trapped inside the cab of his tractor-trailer, Elmer Cook, 47, of Morganton, was freed Friday following a single-vehicle crash on N.C. 801 not far from Centenary Church Road in Mount Ulla, near the Iredell County line.
N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper C.J. Doty said Cook was traveling south on N.C. 801, in the western part of the county, to deliver a load of paper to a Mooresville business. He ran off the road around 11:25 a.m. and down an embankment. The cab hit a tree, split open and separated from its chassis. The load in the trailer overturned onto its side and the truck slid 316 feet from where it hit the road, Doty said.
Cook was hauling five large rolls of paper, each weighing 6,000 pounds, Doty said.
He said it was unclear if the load shifted, causing the truck to leave the road and overturn.
West Rowan Assistant Fire Chief Andy Russell, who was also incident commander, said the rescue operations were lengthy because of the amount of debris and the way the truck was positioned. With the rising temperatures, rescuers had to be switched often.
The temperature during the crash was in the high 70s, but the heat index was around 86 degrees.
Rescuers used the Jaws of Life to cut a path through the cab to get to Cook, who was pinned underneath the steering wheel. Rescuers also had to stabilize the tractor and the cab before attempting to get Cook out safely. The teams relied on pulleys, ropes and a ladder to securely get rescuers down the 30 foot embankment.
It took one hour and 45 minutes to get Cook free of the cab and inside a waiting ambulance.
Russell said Cook was coherent throughout the entire ordeal and never lost consciousness. Cook did complain of not being able to feel his legs. Russell said he believed Cook was the one who made the initial call to emergency dispatchers.
Cook later said he had pain in his shoulder and head. The trooper said Cook had a possible hip fracture. He was taken to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville.
The following agencies aided in the rescue: West Rowan Volunteer Fire, West Rowan Rescue, Locke Fire, Rowan Rescue Squad, Shepherds Volunteer Fire, Atwell Fire, Mooresville Fire and Mooresville Rescue.
Cook was wearing a seat belt. He was cited for driving left of center. The trooper also believes speed was a factor in the crash. Cook is with Stephen Craig Transport Inc., of Hickory.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.