Local News

Driver's body recovered from truck that plunged into Haw River

Posted March 8, 2012 12:54 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2012 5:22 a.m. EST

— The body of a truck driver was pulled from a tractor-trailer Thursday afternoon about three hours after the truck ran off U.S. Highway 1 in Chatham County and into the Haw River.

The flatbed truck veered off northbound U.S. 1 at about 11:45 a.m. about a quarter-mile before the bridge over the river, which is between Exits 79 and 81 on the highway.

The truck spilled its load of logs, knocked down a highway sign and angled back toward the road, scraping the outside of the northbound bridge before plunging down an embankment into the river, witnesses said.

"The cab of the truck rode on the rail of the bridge, with the trailer hanging down (until) it reached the point where the trailer dragged the rest of the truck down into the river," Sgt. Ron Elkins of the state Highway Patrol said.

Passing drivers clambered down the embankment, but they weren't able to reach the driver in the submerged truck cab.

"A couple of the passersby were down there beating on the cab, trying to see if they could find anything," witness Mickey Mann said.

Emergency crews also failed in their efforts to rescue the driver. The Highway Patrol identified the driver as Ronald Mack Brown, 49, of Sanford. He drove for Matthew Johnson Logging in Sanford.

There was no evidence Brown tried to brake during the incident, and state troopers were trying to determine if he suffered a medical condition that caused him to lose control of the truck.

Truck driver Ernest Reaves said he knows the risks that go with handling a big rig.

"Weight's the main factor. Once something happens like that, the weight is what's going to push it on," Reaves said.

The truck's cab was pulled from the river shortly after 3 p.m., but the trailer remained on the riverbank after 5 p.m. One northbound lane of U.S. 1 remained closed so a crane could try to remove the trailer.