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Truck Crash: Car Explodes

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Appears to be a local news account:

Merlin B. was eating lunch with his parents at their home on Route 8 when they heard a loud crash.

When they ran outside their Slippery Rock Township Pennsylvania home at about 2 p.m. yesterday, they saw a tractor-trailer consumed in a ball of fire as it careened through the intersection of Route 8 and Branchton Road. That intersection is frequently the scene of accidents, some of them fatal, but none anything like this.

A man, totally on fire, emerged from the inferno that came to rest on Branchton Road across from Granny Haus, a pizza shop at the intersection.

"He was on fire. He was screaming, 'My family, my family,' " Merlin B. said.

Later, officials from the Butler County coroner's office pulled four bodies from the wreckage, from inside a passenger car that was under the 18-wheeler.

Batykefer and his father, Merlin, wrapped the burning man in one of his mother's quilts and moved him away from the fire. Merlin's mother, Eleanore, called 911, and the owner of the pizza shop ran out with a fire extinguisher.

At first, Merlin thought the man who was on fire was the driver of the 18-wheeler, but soon realized that he had been driving a car that was nothing but a heap of rubble along the road.

"I was totally shocked when he crawled out of there," Merlin said. "The car was buried under the truck. The tires were exploding."

Last night, state police in Butler charged the operator of the truck, Elub G., 54, of West Valley, Utah, with four counts of vehicular homicide for running a stop sign on Branchton Road and causing the crash.

Elub also was charged with reckless driving, ignoring stop signs and yield signs, and failure to obey traffic signals.

Last night, state police still had not released the names of the four people who died in the car or its driver, who was flown by helicopter to Mercy Hospital. The Butler County coroner's office could not be reached for comment.

It took the deputy coroners several hours to remove the bodies from the smoking wreckage. The crash site in northwestern Butler County remained closed until about 9 p.m. last night.

The cab of the truck was melted and the car was nothing but a pile of rubble, so badly burned that state police could not identify its make.

Trooper Rob Lagoon of the Butler barracks said Elub was traveling east on Branchton and the car was traveling south on Route 8 when Elub ran the stop sign. Elub, who suffered only minor injuries, was questioned by police immediately after the incident.

Lagoon said the Freightliner tractor, owned by EH Transport in West Valley, Utah, wasn't carrying any cargo. The truck cab apparently caught fire when the car's gas tank ruptured as it was crushed under the truck.

Residents said the Branchton Road-Route 8 intersection has been the site of numerous accidents, some of them fatal.

"This is the third or fourth accident since I opened here in October," said Traci H., owner of Granny Haus.

"This was the worst one ever.

"When I saw [the burn victim] come out of that trailer, I had no idea that there was a car under that truck," she said.

P.S. The man flown to the hospital is now reported dead. He had 3rd degree burns over 90% of his body. This took the death toll to five people.

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