PORT ANGELES — A bystander sustained minor injuries when the air brakes on a tractor-trailer apparently suffered a “colossal failure,” causing the driverless rig to roll down a hill from Thurman Supply into the side of Okasan Japanese Restaurant.
Port Angeles Police Officer Mike Johnson said the tractor penetrated the side of the restaurant building for three or four feet into a lobby and bathroom area Friday afternoon.
Johnson said there were no customers in the restaurant, but there were some employees inside and all avoided injury.
Okasan owners or managers could not be reached for comment.
According to Johnson, the driver of the tractor-trailer, which was from Reddaway Trucking in Tacoma, had stopped at Thurman Supply on East Front Street at about 2 p.m. to make a delivery. He locked the air brakes to both the tractor and the trailer, Johnson reported.
The trailer was nearly empty, Johnson said, because the driver had been making deliveries all day. While he was in the trailer the air brakes on the front tractor failed for some reason. With no weight in the back of the trailer, the trailer brakes were not able to stop the entire rig from rolling. The rig began rolling down a steep hill toward an alley and Okasan Restaurant.
A couple who had parked a Ford pickup perpendicular to the tractor-trailer had just exited their pickup to look at some pallets at Thurman Supply, Johnson said. The tractor hit the Ford pickup and pushed it partly down the hill, then spun it 90 degrees. When the pickup spun, it knocked down the male driver of the pickup.
Meanwhile, the driver of the tractor-trailer was in the trailer of his rig.
“He thought it was an earthquake. He had no idea what was happening. He threw himself onto a pallet to ride it out,” Johnson said.
The truck continued rolling slowly about 40 or 50 feet until it struck the side of the restaurant, also on East Front Street.
The pickup driver was taken to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles to be evaluated. He was treated and released for minor injuries, Johnson said. Johnson said the State Patrol is handling the official report and identities could not be released until the report is done.
Traffic was reported to have been snarled for hours.
Johnson said it was fortunate that the brakes failed while the truck was parked.
“If that had happened (while he was driving) on Front Street, that could have been a mass casualty event,” he said. “The way it occurred had the lowest volume of damage.”
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