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Two truck drivers cited for lost loads

Feb. 26, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Two tractor-trailer truck drivers have been cited on charges of allowing unsecured loads after their trucks lost shipments of steel beams and plywood in consecutive days.

Both incidents snarled morning traffic on U.S. 52 near its West Huntington interchange with Interstate 64. Monday's load of steel beams blocked I-64's eastbound off ramp, while Tuesday's incident spilled plywood across both directions of U.S. 52 between I-64 and the route's other interchanges with Washington, Adams and Madison avenues.

Huntington Police Lt. Levi Livingston joined a state highways official in calling the back-to-back incidents a coincidence. They said similar trucks travel the busy highway linking West Virginia and Ohio everyday without issue.

"It doesn't happen that often," Livington said.

Tuesday's incident involved 48,000 pounds of plywood, according to a dispatcher at Cabell County 911. It occurred at 5:22 a.m. and closed all lanes of U.S. 52 for approximately four hours.

Livingston said a plywood sheet from the northbound tractor-trailer landed across the median, striking a southbound sport-utility vehicle. The dispatcher said one person was transported to an area hospital, but neither the dispatcher nor Livingston received any report of significant injuries.

The plywood cleanup required the involvement of nine crews from the state Division of Highways, said District Engineer Scott Eplin. He anticipates the Highways Division will use its legal resources to recoup costs from the truck company involved. He had no estimate of Tuesday's price tag, but said some cleanups can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars.

"(Tuesday's) incident is a textbook case of a situation where we would go after reimbursement," he said.

The trucking company involved in Monday's incident hired Cogan's Wrecker Service, of Huntington, to clear its load of steel beams, Livingston said. He explained such cleanups are the company's responsibility, but the expedited need to reopen a highway at times will prompt emergency crews to call out resources themselves.

Eplin's agency dedicated one crew to support Cogan's in the Monday cleanup. He anticipates the agency also will make efforts to recover those costs.

Lost in the back-to-back incidents is the impact on other road projects, Eplin said. He explained Tuesday's incident forced the Highways Division to delay construction and inspection scheduled for main routes for work on secondary roads where less traffic control was necessary.

Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial said the two unsecured load citations will be dealt with in municipal court. He said both drivers face a fine, which will be determined by the municipal judge.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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