NTSB report says corrosion led to fatal tunnel crash

Updated May 2, 2018
Figure 1. Photograph of the Lehigh Tunnel south portal entrance. The crash occurred in the southbound (left) tunnel.
NTSB diagram showing interior details of Leigh TunnelNTSB diagram showing interior details of Leigh Tunnel

A report released today by federal transportation investigators says steel straps holding electrical conduits to the ceiling of a Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel had corroded before a portion of conduit fell killing a truck driver in February.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report on the Feb. 21 accident inside the Lehigh Tunnel that killed 70-year-old Howard Sexton III. The large pipe fell from the ceiling of the tunnel, which is located about 70 miles north of Philadelphia, and crashed through the windshield of Sexton’s truck.

Sexton, a driver for Raymour & Flanigan, was delivering a load of furniture and mattresses at the time of the accident, according to a company spokesman.

The NTSB’s report said a 2016 inspection found the corrosion, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was in the process of awarding a contract to make repairs when the accident happened.

The report said the NTSB plans to identify a probable cause in its final report. It will likely make safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.