Driver partially ejected when tree splits truck cab

Photo By Rick Harris
Bakers Construction Company truck driver Clarence Whitaker was partially ejected from the cab of the truck and was able to exit the truck on his own power.

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
An afternoon accident on Highway 321 left a Baker's Construction Company employee injured but lucky to have escaped without more serious injuries.
Clarence L. Whitaker was traveling westbound around Watauga Lake at approximately 2 p.m. when he approached road construction and paving crews and had to choose between barreling over halted cars with his truck pulling a gooseneck trailer loaded with a bobcat or swerving off the road into a gravel pulloff location.
Whitaker chose the latter, but unfortunately he wasn't able to stop the truck. According to State Trooper Jerry Proffitt, after Whitaker rounded the turn at Carden's Bluff, he approached the stopped traffic, attempted to stop, but realized he was not going to be able to and chose to avoid rearending the automobiles in front of him.
The Baker's Construction Company truck continued off the embankment and struck a tree, which split the cab section into two separate pieces.
Carter County Rescue Squad Director Terry Arnold said Whitaker "was partially ejected and then came out on his own." Arnold said his injuries were not life threatening and appeared to be minor, although Arnold and other rescue personnel splinted his left leg for possible broken bones.
A winch from the rescue truck pulled the injured man up the approximately 25-foot embankment. Rescuers also had to trim a few tree branches with chainsaws to make room for the basket holding Whitaker.
Whitaker was transported by Carter County Rescue Squad to the Johnson City Medical Center for treatment.
Rescue workers initially were worried about the diesel fuel leaking from the truck, but luckily only half of the fuel tank drained from the truck into leaves which caused no danger to the workers or Whitaker.
The truck also plowed through a telephone pole with cable wires, which were repaired by employees of the Elizabethton Electric System.
Three trucks from Baker's Construction Company were traveling Highway 321, when the truck drove off the embankment. The co-workers driving in front of Whitaker were able to stop their vehicles when they approached the stand-still traffic around the curve. Dale Taylor, driver of another Baker's Construction Company vehicle said, "He is lucky to be alive."
Proffitt said no charges will be placed against Whitaker.