2011-08-24 / Front Page

Sanitation Truck Dangles In Queens


A boss at the union representing Department of Sanitation workers last week said the mechanic who drove a salt spreader through the wall of a Maspeth repair shop, “won the lottery”.
“I don’t think he has to buy a lottery ticket,” union boss Joseph Colangelo said. “He hit the lottery on Wednesday.”
Colangelo, president of Local 246, was referring to mechanic Robert Legail, 56, who got behind the wheel of the 16-ton salt spreader on Friday morning to take it for pre-season maintenance at the DOS repair facility on 58th Street in Maspeth.
Legail stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake and slammed the salt spreader through a wall on the fifth-floor of the building – leaving it dangling 50 feet above the sidewalk.
Legail, who has been with the Department of Sanitation for more than 10 years, was pulled to safety by firefighters using a tower ladder.
“It was really a miracle,” Colangelo told reporters. “He was just lucky the truck didn’t go all the way through the building.”
Fire officials said the salt spreader came within inches of plummeting 50-feet to the pavement when it tore through the building wall at about 9:30 a.m. on August 19. The crash sent bricks, chunks of cement and debris raining down on cars parked outside the Maspeth facility, fire officials said.
“The driver spent 15 terrifying minutes in the bright yellow cab, dangling perilously from the building,” the officials said. “He was screaming, ‘Help! Help me!’ as he hung on to the interior of the cab. He was in shock, shaking and sweating when firefighters reached him.”
“There are signs up there warning drivers to slow down, “ DOS Commissioner John Doherty said. “He’s familiar with the rules. We think it was just an unfortunate accident.”
The salt spreader, property of the city Department of Corrections, is used to clear snow at Riker’s Island, DOS officials said. It was delivered to the Maspeth warehouse for winterization, and was being driven to a repair bay when it crashed, officials said.
The truck, which dangled at a 45-degree angle, did not fall because the back of the vehicle was pinned against the ceiling of the garage, officials said.
Legail was pulled to safety through the truck window by firefighters from nearby Ladder Co. 163. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center in stable condition and was released at about 1:30 p.m. after treatment for neck and back injuries.
The truck, worth $230,000 was determined a total wreck when it was pulled back into the building at about 3:30 p.m. with some help from tow trucks and a crane, DOS officials said.
Firefighters in Astoria also had their hands full on Friday morning.
A Department of Parks truck was being driven on a concrete path near the East River the morning of August 19 when the driver stopped to pick up some garbage, fire officials said.
While the truck was stopped, the ground beneath its wheels gave way, sending the truck crashing into an eight-foot-wide sinkhole.
Eyewitnesses told police the ground appeared to melt beneath the wheels of the truck – and it looked like the pavement was going to “eat up the whole truck”.
There were no injuries, police said.

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