Photo By Robert Sherman Jr.
ROBBINSVILLE — A 55-year-old West Berlin woman whose car was crushed in a crash involving three tractor-trailers yesterday on Route 130 was clinging to life in critical condition last night.
Witnesses said quick work by tow truck driver Robert Schear, 26, of Hightstown, lifted a tractor-trailer off the woman’s car and saved her life.
As luck would have it, the 3:27 p.m. crash occurred across the street from Mackeys Towing, a heavy-duty towing company used by Robbinsville police and New Jersey State Police on the turnpike to tow and remove tractor-trailers.
Schear, driver Rob Yasuk and others at Mackeys rushed out to assist township firefighters and EMS to complete the extrication of the woman in about 20 minutes, reported Robbinsville police Lt. Michael Polaski.
The victim, Donnalee Reynolds, was carefully handed out by Robbinsville EMS and Paramedics and rushed to Capital Health Regional Medical Center’s trauma unit at Fuld in Trenton.
Patrolman Tom Paglione reported that a tractor-trailer heading north on 130 struck a second tractor-trailer before lurching across the median and stopping across all southbound lanes.
The second truck slammed into the back of Reynolds’ 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, crushing the car up to the back of her seat and driving it into a third tractor-trailer in front of her car.
“Mrs. Reynolds’ vehicle was pinned between the second and third tractor-trailer,” Lt. Polaski reported, “with the second tractor-trailer coming to rest on top of her vehicle.”
That’s when Schear and the boys from Mackeys Towing kicked into action.
“He took our heavy tow truck out,” said Rob Yasuk, “and he actually lifted the nose of the tractor-trailer that was on the car off the car while another truck pulled the car out from underneath it. So they were able to get the victim out.
“If they didn’t do that, I believe the victim would have died,” Yasuk said. “Out of all the years I’ve been towing, that by far is the worst one I’ve seen. “
Robert Schear said he’d been outside, unloading another tractor-trailer that had been involved in a turnpike crash, and saw the whole horror show as it unfolded.
“The lady was stopped, and the tractor-trailer (behind her) started hitting his brakes, and then the third one came down and side-swiped it because he seen that everyone was stopping,” Schear said.
“He yanked the wheel real hard to the left, sideswiped it — hit the trailer so hard he pushed it right over top of the car.
“I ran across the street to see if the lady was alright. When I first seen her, she was unresponsive. I was yelling, trying to get her attention, because she was crushed inside there.
“It didn’t look like she was (alive), and I stood there for a minute. And I seen her breathe a couple of times,” Schear said.
“So I ran over and got the tow truck and backed it over there and got it all ready for when the fire department got there, and lifted it off of her. Once they gave me the go-ahead, I lifted it straight in the air, and then we pulled (her car) out from underneath the truck, so they could cut her out of it.”
Schear said the woman stirred.
“When I was getting everything set up, she was just saying ‘I can’t breathe’ in a really, really low voice,” he said. When they cut her out of the wreck, he said, she began moving.
One witness described the cause of the accident in one sentence: One truck wasn’t paying attention and hit the other truck and that truck went up on top of that car.
None of the truck drivers was injured or charged.
The first tractor-trailer, a 1995 WGM registered to AP Freight Inc., was driven by Rafael Dominguez, 48, of Willingboro, Burlington County.
The one that struck Mrs. Reynolds’ Monte Carlo, a 2006 Freight Liner registered to B&S Trucking, was driven by Mykola Pavlyuchyk, 43, of Brooklyn, N.Y., while the rig that her car rammed was a 1998 Freight Liner registered to Ivans Trucking and driven by Jose Davila, 37, of Bethlehem, Pa.
Route 130 was shut down for two and a half hours in both directions between Meadowbrook and Windsor roads.