By Paul Martino

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CHURCHILL (KDKA) – A tractor trailer lost its brakes and crashed into nine vehicles in Churchill on Friday afternoon.

It happened just after 1 p.m. at the intersection of Rodi Road and William Penn Highway.

Watch Paul Martino’s report —

 

Churchill Police Chief Roch Kujava says the truck, which belongs to Hinkle Trucking, was coming off the Parkway East and going down the hill off the William Penn Highway exit when his brakes failed.

According to the truck driver, he lost all air power in his brakes.

“His brakes failed,” Kujava said. “The vehicles that were stopped at the red light, he struck them as they sat.”

Nine vehicles were involved in the crash. Eleven people were injured and a total of nine people were transported to local hospitals. Two women in their 70s are in serious condition with broken bones, but they are expected to survive.

Watch Bob Allen’s report —

 

Michael West was waiting at the light when the crash happened.

“I saw and heard the truck hit the first car. Then I heard ‘bang, bang, bang,’ so I think I was, like, the third car in line, and I hit the car in front of me,” West said.

West wasn’t hurt, but he jumped out of his car to help others.

“The car that was hit first, I went up and I helped them and they were in pretty bad condition,” he said. “Couple of elderly ladies, in their 70s.”

One driver who did not want to be identified said she was first in line at the red light and last to get hit in the chain reaction.

“We were the last ones to get hit, and we were kind of pushed up into the intersection, so I drove us up there because I had two other people in the car with me, I didn’t want anyone to get hurt,” she said.

She said she couldn’t really see in the truck in her rear view mirror, but she heard the vehicles crashing into each other.

One driver did manage to escape. She saw the tractor trailer coming down the hillside in her rear view mirror, and she jumped the median to get out of the way and avoid the crash.

“I’ve been a police officer since 1979. This is the worst crash I’ve ever been involved in,” Kujava said.

Watch raw drone footage (courtesy: Perspectrum, LLC) —

 

The truck driver wasn’t hurt in the crash.

No fatalities have been reported at this time.

“We’re very lucky. The size of the vehicle, the tractor hitting these cars, we’re very lucky we didn’t have any fatalities,” Kujava said. “People are injured, but hopefully they’ll be OK.”

The Department of Transportation says Hinkle Trucking, out of Riverton, W.Va., has had ten crashes in the last two years. Five of those crashes involved injuries. It also has a record of multiple traffic violations, including speeding and reckless driving.

Hinkle has conditional safety rating, which means it is not in compliance with one or more safety requirements.

A little over five hours after the multiple-vehicle crash, the tanker truck that caused the pileup was towed from the scene, and after finishing up their on-site investigation, police would be ready to reopen Route 22 to traffic.

“After our accident reconstructionists finish shooting the scene, they’ll take their measurements, then our truck inspectors will go over the tractor trailer to examine it for any malfunctions,” Allegheny County Police Sgt. Ken Runkel said.

Investigators will now pay special attention to the truck’s brakes.

“The driver was cooperative,” Runkel told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti. “He spoke with our team. We’ll talk to other drivers and witnesses and determine what’s going to happen from here.”

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