Hammond, Ind. (CBS) — A UPS semi-truck veered off a bridge on an Indiana toll road and caught fire before plunging into the Calumet River early Friday — but the driver suffered only minor injuries.
Indiana State Police said shortly after 2 a.m., the truck struck the Calumet River bridge and caught fire. CBS 2’s Chris Habermehl said the truck slid between the east and west lanes. By 11 am, a part of the truck broke down and fell into the water.
The other half of the semi was later kept hanging from a crane.
Hammond fire and scuba crews were contacted because responders feared the driver, a 32-year-old resident of south suburban Lansing, was in the river and possibly trapped in the cab. But he was found clinging to a bridge support about 20 minutes later where he was rescued and taken to St Catherine’s Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
He has since been discharged from the hospital.
As CBS 2’s Maribel Gonzalez reported Friday night, it took scuba teams, multiple fire departments and even a hazmat team to clear the scene. Friday night – even in the dark, cleanup crews were still searching the river for debris.
Investigators have long said it was one of the worst accidents in a while.
“It’s been a wild day,” said Hammond Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Grisolia. “We see bad accidents – but to see something like this this morning, it was unbelievable.”
Grisolia’s crew was the first to respond.
Grisolia said, “The taxi was basically in the water. We put out a fire.” “It was basically a miracle that any of it survived to what we’ve seen today.”
But the driver only had minor injuries.
Grisolia said, “We did a quick search in the cab of the semi-truck, where they didn’t find anyone. Crews began clearing the way for water, looking for the driver if he was ejected. No luck.” “Within about 15 minutes, we heard some shouting. He was actually hanging on top of a concrete pillar over there.”
It was not clear Friday night what caused the crash, but UPS said it was glad its driver was okay.
UPS released the following statement: “We are grateful that our driver is safe and that no other vehicles were involved. We are working with the responding authorities on this ongoing investigation.”
Meanwhile, the cleaning work went on day and night.
Lake County, Indiana hazmat coordinator Bill Missal said, “When that alarm goes off and you get the call, you know someone is calling for help, you don’t really know until you get to the scene.” But don’t reach.”
The Lake County Hazmat team searched the Calumet River for any oil spill. His first responders said it was teamwork that made the rescue effort possible.
“To walk away from it, it was a blessed day for everyone,” Grisolia said. “It was a miracle.”
We tried contacting the driver to get his side of the sad story, but we were unable to reach him.
We’ve been told that cleanup efforts along the Calumet River will resume Saturday morning.