Bear Swamp: RollOver

by kfrego

Part of the Bear Swamp Project included relocating the existing Deerfield Road to a higher elevation above the reservoir created by the new lower dam. The downstream end of the new road was on a rock bench excavated out of the side of a very steep mountain. Maintaining traffic on the old road was very time consuming while constructing the lower dam. The frequent blasting above the old road would fill it with blasted rock. It wasn’t uncommon to incur four hour delays to clear the road. The nearest available detour was many miles longer over the top of a mountain. Trucks over ten tons couldn’t use the optional road due to bridge weight restrictions. Traffic was diverted to the new road before the final base and asphalt were finished. The road still had some delays due to one way traffic around work areas, but the progress of construction impacted by the old road was a huge benefit to the project. One of our adventures was a result of restricted traffic on the new road.

A paving crew was working on the new road in an area where the road had a 60 foot rock cut on the uphill side. The downhill side of the road was very steep with no vegetation or trees. Most of the material was excavated rock and soil pushed off the new road during construction. About 100 feet below the new road was the old road which was being used for construction access. Walt Dzeima was flagging traffic on one end of the paving work. Myself and several men were working a few hundred feet away on the spillway excavation. We could see all the equipment and vehicles working on the new road. It was mid afternoon and Walt had several cars stopped with a tractor trailer in the line. The truck was hauling alum in a large, long, cylindrical, bulk trailer. The bulk trucks frequently passed through the project enroute to the paper mills upstream on the Deerfield River. Walt released the traffic while standing in the middle of the new road. The truck driver was just about even with Walt when he got off on the shoulder of the road. The front wheel of the truck sank into the soft shoulder and pulled the truck to the right. The driver fought the steering wheel. By the time he reached for the brake, the truck was slowly tipping over. The drivers door was straight up in the air as he clamored out of the cab, stood on the edge of the running board, and jumped clear of the truck. From my position all we could hear was the loud clumping sounds of the truck as it hit while rolling to the bottom. We couldn’t see the driver when he jumped. The truck rolled several times and landed with a huge thud in a massive plume of dust as the trailer burst open from the impact. All we could do was watch the truck tumble to the bottom.

Walt was real concerned about losing his job………the driver was happy to be there to get fired.