Lehigh Valley

Witness recalls scene of deadly Lehigh Valley conduit collapse

70-year-old man killed by falling pipe.

WASHINGTON TWP., Pa. - It was a chaotic scene Wednesday night on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Police say a metal conduit fell from the ceiling of the Lehigh Tunnel around 6:00 p.m.

It impaled the windshield of a tractor trailer truck, hitting 70-year-old Howard Sexton in the head, killing him.

"When I went through the tunnel, I drove through the wires, the cables that were left hanging," said Alyssa Kratz of Pennsburg.

Kratz passed through the Lehigh Tunnel on the southbound side of the Northeast Extension about eight minutes after the deadly crash.

Police say the truck kept going for about a mile after it was hit.

It came to a stop on the shoulder and apparently no one knew that anyone had been hurt, much less killed, until officers later found Sexton dead in the truck.

Kratz says she didn't notice the tractor trailer but says hanging cables brushed the top of her car and others in the tunnel.

"Everyone, when they realized what had happened, put their hazard lights on," said Kratz.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says its engineers are working to figure out what caused the metal conduit to fall.

The Commission says all tunnels are inspected every other year.

"The most recent inspection was in September of 2016 and it's scheduled for another inspection this fall," said Carl DeFebo with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

The Turnpike Commission also released a statement saying it advertised for bids to replace the lighting system in the tunnel this past December, a red flag for catastrophic personal injury attorney Andrew Duffy.

"That obviously tells me that they saw something that needed to be fixed," said Duffy.

69 News asked for a copy of the Lehigh Tunnel's recent inspect records but the Turnpike Commission declined, so we submitted a Right to Know Request.

Pennsylvania State Police are also investigating the incident, along with the Turnpike Commission, and they're are asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash or anyone with information to contact Trooper Ronald Zanella at (570) 443-9511.

Sexton was delivering a load of furniture and mattresses for Raymour and Flanigan when the crash happened.  The company released a statement saying in part, "He has been a beloved member of the Southern New Jersey team since 2001."

Sexton was from Mickleton, New Jersey.


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