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NTSB Eyes Corrosion in Fatal PA Turnpike Crash

Thursday, May 3, 2018

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A fatal accident in a Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel in February was likely caused by the corrosion of steel straps that were holding up electrical conduit, according to a newly released preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Lehigh Tunnel
Route 82, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Corrosion was likely to blame when a metal conduit broke loose of its steel support strap in the Lehigh Tunnel, killing a truck driver, in February.

Truck driver Howard M. Sexton, of East Greenwich, New Jersey, died Feb. 21 in the crash after a length of conduit fell from the ceiling of the Lehigh Tunnel and struck him in the head. Only Sexton’s truck was involved in the accident; no other injuries were reported.

According to the NTSB, Sexton was traveling southbound on I-495—the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike—around 6 p.m. that day when a 10-foot stretch of metal conduit broke free from its steel support and fell, hitting the windshield of his truck.

The truck continued on through the tunnel for more than half a mile before coming to a rest at the side of the road.

System Being Replaced

The NTSB accident report explains that a 2016 inspection of the tunnel found corrosion on some of the steel straps keeping the conduit affixed to the tunnel ceiling. The preliminary report does not specify a probable cause, but the summary focuses on the corrosion that had been found on the part that ultimately failed and caused the wreck.

Truck after crash
Pennsylvania State Police, via NTSB

Truck driver Howard M. Sexton, of East Greenwich, New Jersey, died Feb. 21 in the crash after a length of conduit fell from the ceiling of the tunnel and struck him in the head. 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was already in the process of issuing a contract for the replacement of the lighting and electrical system for the tunnel, a job that will involve moving the conduit from its current location to the sides of the tunnels. That work is expected to be done in the affected tunnel in October.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Corrosion; Roads/Highways; Tunnel

Comment from Scott Youngs, (5/3/2018, 11:42 AM)

It seems to me that Mr. Sexton's death may have been prevented if temporary repairs had been made until the permanent relocation of the piping were completed...JMHO

Comment from Bryant Chandler, (5/3/2018, 12:18 PM)

If only one section of conduit fell why didn't the cable inside hold the conduit up? Surprised that more adjacent conduit did not fall unless the corrosion of the strap was isolated to that one conduit only.

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