Misguided truck causes all kinds of trouble

SALEM — A semi truck driver’s failure to follow a road closed ahead/truck detour sign on East State Street Monday ended with two downed utility poles, downed power lines and a power outage for several locations when he tried to cut through the Papa John’s Pizza parking lot.

This was after he found State Street closed at Ohio Avenue, with workers and cement trucks on site for a street construction project.

Ilya Boyko, 33, of Boiling Springs, S.C., was cited for driving on a closed road and reckless operation for the incident which occurred at 11:56 a.m. and kept police and fire department squads tied up for over an hour. Multiple Ohio Edison crews had to respond to the scene for the afternoon to make repairs.

When police responded, they found the truck on Ohio Avenue facing south with a large piece of utility pole stuck diagonally between the tractor and trailer with wires still attached. There was debris from the pole and the truck on the ground. The pole had been sheared off at the base on the curb lawn just south of the pizza business located at the southeast corner of Ohio and State.

Multiple traffic signals in town lost power, along with many residences, businesses and schools. Papa John’s had to close.

According to a fire department report, a large pole at the intersection was leaning heavily with primary power lines that appeared to be caused by the tension of the lines being pulled. Firefighters closed off the road in all directions, barricades were deployed and cement workers were told to vacate their work space as a precaution in case that pole finished breaking.

Ohio Edison took care of the poles and remained to repair the damaged lines and equipment, with power restored quickly for some and still out into the evening for others.

The police report said the truck driver was not injured and admitted to driving on East State Street from the east end of town to Ohio Avenue where he drove through the parking lot at Papa John’s. A large sign is posted on East State Street at Southeast Boulevard and North Madison Avenue advertising that the street is closed ahead and advising trucks to take the detour along Pershing Street. There’s also a truck route outside of Salem that’s suggested for trucks going straight through, even when there isn’t a construction project with a road closure. Local traffic has been using the road up to where it’s closed from Ohio Avenue to Lincoln Avenue.

The report also said at least two witnesses told police “the truck had stopped in front of the funeral home across the street and then the driver revved the engine and drove through Papa John’s lot at a high rate of speed,” striking the wires and causing the damage to the pole and truck. According to the report, the trailer measured 53 feet in length.

The city’s project to repair concrete streets involves East State Street from Lincoln to the hospital, sections of Southeast Boulevard and parts of Pershing from Ohio to Southeast Boulevard. The work is being done in stages, with plans to finish State Street first, then Southeast Boulevard, then Pershing. There’s also a plan to work on North Lincoln Avenue from State Street to Second Street, but city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said previously that section will be done last.

Signs have been posted for the road closure. Signs temporarily prohibiting left turns from the southbound lane of Lincoln to travel east on Pershing have also been posted in an attempt to alleviate traffic backups, but many motorists continue to make the left turn, ignoring the signs, with traffic backing all the way up to Second Street at times.

The project is supposed to be completed in December.

Kenst has advised several times for motorists to avoid the work area if possible.