Truck driver Jarius Twilley heard a loud boom and felt his truck jerk, but he never realized he was dragging the vehicle of a Minden man down Interstate 20 Wednesday morning.
Inside that vehicle was 34-year-old Russell Johnston who, two hours later, would be extricated and airlifted by Life Air Rescue to LSU-HSC. Johnston, who was wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash, was listed in serious but stable condition this morning, according to LSU-HSC patient information.
"I am coming down I-20 west there was an accident ahead about a couple of blocks up and I see traffic slowing down pretty quickly so I slowed down quickly too," said Twilley. "As I'm slowing down BOOM someone hits the back of me and it jerked my truck and my trailer real hard.
"I did the best I could to slow down and get to the shoulder," he continued. "As I got out I didn't know there was a truck under my trailer," said 23-year-old Twilley, of Chicago, IL.
According to State Trooper 1st Class Mark Keough, traffic was backed up due to a roll over wreck that had just occurred at mile marker 43 west bound when Johnston, who was heading west in the passing lane, changed lanes and collided with the rear portion of the tractor-trailer rig.
Johnston's Land Rover Discovery traveled 441 feet under the 18-wheeler loaded with plastics.
"He had to be doing 70 miles an hour when he hit that trailer," said Keough, "and that trailer was full of plastics.
"The good part," continued Keough, "all the plastic was in the front of the trailer so most of the weight was in the front."
Members of the Minden-Webster Rescue Squad worked non-stop for two hours to extricate Johnston.
When rescue personnel first arrived, they had to evaluate the scene and look at all of their options.
"We knew it was somebody trapped in a vehicle but we didn't know it was an 18-wheeler," said Minden Fire Chief Kip Mourad. "There are all kinds of options on trying to get somebody extricated, and they are all not going to work."
The team first tried one option and then another. Finally, the team chose to cut the top of the vehicle off and then Nolen's Towing & Recovery service lifted the trailer up so the rescue squad could get their heavy equipment into the tight places.
Because Johnston was pinned in so tightly, the team had to try different techniques to cut away parts of the vehicle.
"The bumper of the truck was pushed up against his chest and there were all kinds of sheet metal in his cheek and in his neck so you can't just start moving him around," Mourad said.
Working with heavy equipment and in tight places many times poses difficulty and the result is the extrication takes a while.
"It was a long extrication but that is not really unusual," Mourad said. "Most extrications you don't just get there and get them right out. Some you might get them out in five minutes but some of them might last an hour or two hours. You have to take your time."
During the two-hour ordeal Johnston, who is a paramedic, was conscious, according to Mourad.
"He knew the situation and he talked to the paramedics and told them how he was feeling. He could relate to them and they could to him. He knew what to tell them," Mourad said.
Mourad was unsure of Johnston's internal injuries but he said, "I know his right and left leg were broke and one of his arms was broke. I don't know about his hip but he had all kinds of cuts and gashes on him."
According to Mourad, if Johnston's vehicle had traveled another two inches into the truck it would have broken his neck or worse.
In a period of two hours Webster Parish, Troop G and Minden Police Departments worked four wrecks. Two of the wrecks stemmed from the original rollover and a driver having a seizure caused another, according to Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton.