By Kim Glovas, Cleve Bryan and Dan Wing
UPPER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) – The southbound lanes of Garden State Parkway have re-opened following a temporary closure between Ocean City exits after a dump truck ran off the roadway and crashed into the bay.
According to New Jersey State Police, a dump truck went off the Garden State Parkway southbound on the Great Egg Harbor Bridge.
It happened just after 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Great Egg Harbor Bridge, near the Somers Point Toll Plaza. Police say a witness saw a construction dump truck lose control, hit the divider, and then careen off the bridge on the right. The dump truck plunged into the waters of the Great Egg Harbor bay below.
“He locked up and his vehicle just started sliding,” eyewitness Mike Pagano said.
Pagano saw it all as a dump truck appeared to lose control on the Garden State Parkway and plunged off the Great Egg Harbor Bridge.
The driver apparently hit the center divider before going across two lanes and over the guardrail.
“His truck actually spun backwards like this, and hit the side of the bridge and it just flipped him right smack into the bay. It looked like a whale, actually, that’s how much of a splash it was. And then gone, we never saw the truck again,” Pagano said.
Where the truck landed was right next to where crews were pulling apart the old Beesley’s Point Bridge. The quick actions of two construction workers may have saved the life of the driver.
Jason Armbruster and Aaron Grace saw the whole thing. Grace was operating a crane nearby, he describes what happened next.
“It hit the water, and landed backwards, rolled on to it’s passenger side with the driver cab door up,” he said.
Armbruster describes what they saw when they moved closer to the water.
“You could see the guy in the window, like scratching at the window trying to get out. So I jumped in the water, and then Aaron — me and Aaron jumped in the water. I had a hammer, I smashed the window. I was trying to keep his face above water. But his face was like half in and half out of the water, so he couldn’t really breathe,” he said.
Grace added, “I went under his shoulders, and we were working at him, you know, to see where he was jammed. He wasn’t responding. He couldn’t tell us if there was a passenger.”
Armbruster says Grace was able to rig a crane to the vehicle, and eventually get the door open.
They then kept the man afloat until rescue workers were able to free him from the truck. He was was airlifted to the Atlantic City Medical Center with what was described as serious injuries.
“He was unlucky to fall, but where he fell, pretty lucky,” Pagano said.
Police do not believe anyone else was in the vehicle, but are still seeking 100 percent confirmation.
The New Jersey State Police Marine Unit, Fatal Accident Unit and Crime Scene Unit responded to the scene, in addition to the Marmora Fire department and other local companies.
No other vehicles were involved and the reason for the accident is still undetermined.