Originally created 02/09/02

Team effort saves Martinez trucker



Hours after watching the Friday rescue of a Martinez man from a tractor-trailer as it dangled over a bridge, Newberry County, S.C., sheriff's Capt. Todd Johnson summed up the experience in three words.

"God is good," he said.

Capt. Johnson said the incident occurred about 6:25 a.m. on South Carolina Highway 121 near the Newberry-Saluda county line when 51-year-old William Garr's tractor-trailer hit an icy spot and slid into the side of the bridge.

Capt. Johnson said Mr. Garr is a Martinez resident traveling from Augusta.

Mr. Garr's tractor-trailer, owned by B&H Transfer Co. in Sandersville, Ga., slammed through the bridge's concrete railing. That left the cab hanging over the bridge with only a single pin connecting it to the trailer.

"And that was bent over pretty bad to about a 45-degree angle," Capt. Johnson said. "The truck was hanging at probably an 85- to 90-degree angle, almost just straight down over the bridge."

Capt. Johnson said Mr. Garr was trapped in the cab between the steering wheel and windshield for more than two hours. When officials arrived, they urged him not to move.

"He couldn't free himself, obviously, because the movement could have sheared that pin and dropped the cab of the truck over the bridge," he said.

That's when Newberry police, firefighters and Emergency Management Service workers took action. Tow trucks were used first to secure the trailer from falling. Then, a fire truck ladder was extended to the cab with an EMS worker, who used a harness to pull Mr. Garr out of the truck.

Mr. Garr was flown to Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital. A nursing supervisor there said he was in good condition.

Calls to B&H Transfer Co. were not returned Friday.

The bridge was closed until Friday afternoon because a crane was needed to lift the truck back onto the bridge.

Thinking back to his day, Capt. Johnson said the rescue was "a massive effort of joined manpower." But the success, he said, was also thanks to a little help from above.

"I hope he'll be counting his blessings for a long time to come," he said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 110, or prestonsparks@newstimesonline.com.