Truck's steering wheel stops flying steel beam inches from driver's chest

Darcie Moran Detroit Free Press Published 3:56 PM EST Feb 12, 2020

DETROIT - Johnnie Lowe keeps hearing the sound of the crash that left a steel beam inches from his chest. Lowe -- 49, of Wayne, Michigan -- was driving a box truck about 1:30 p.m.

Thursday on his way to Lansing to make a pickup for his company DNC Logistics when he saw something slide off the back of a truck moving into the fast lane. Lowe watched as a beam bounced off the tail end of the rusty-red stake truck with no gate on the rear. The beam did somersaults as it drew closer to him, he said.

For a moment as it bounced, he thought he was safe. "Then here it came," he said. "It bounced my way, so I just put my arm up, put my hand on the back of the steering wheel, put my foot on the brake, eased the brake." Watch: Distracted driver hogs the road because of a giant pig in his lap

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Truck's steering wheel stops flying steel beam inches from driver's chest

"My life flashed before my eyes," he said. He thought of his family, the father to three biological children and stepchildren  said.

He heard a sound like an explosion as the windshield shattered, and then the sound of cars still going by. He aimed for white -- snow on the side of the road -- as he pulled off and brought the truck to a stop. It felt like his face was covered in blood, but a glance at the reflection in his electronic tablet showed he had just one piece of glass in his cheek he said.

Looking down, he saw his body was covered in glass, but intact, he said. In the broken windshield in front of him he saw a 6-foot steel beam now lying on his dashboard, stopped against his steering wheel. Lowe called police, his company and finally his soon-to-be ex-wife in hopes she could calm him down.

She did. He keeps imagining the beam blasting through his windshield and keeps hearing the sound of the crash, but he wants to push through, he said. By Monday, he was back to work.

He almost took the offer of more time off before returning. He's the kind of guy DNC Logistics is proud to have on the team, said Jerry Babcock, general manager for company. Lowe has been on the team for a few months and it was his first job for the day.

When he first heard dispatch of the crash relayed to him, Babcock feared the worst for Lowe.

Truck's steering wheel stops flying steel beam inches from driver's chest

"With that 6-foot steel beam hitting the windshield, shattering the window, his eyes closed, I'm sure, at one point, and being able to handle a 26,000-pound vehicle is amazing," he said   Lowe has driven limousines and party buses, and worked for two trucking companies over a little more than six years, he said. It's lucky he had the training to handle the crash.

He wants others to remember to secure their loads and stop using their phones while driving. Police couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but Lowe said he wants them to find the driver whose beam nearly impaled him. "I could've got killed," he said. "That steel beam could've gone right through my heart."

Follow Darcie Moran on Twitter: @darciegmoran

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