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Fire chief: Truck driver in I-89 crash saved lives - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Fire chief: Truck driver in I-89 crash saved lives

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"He has told many things about the places he goes. He takes pictures and shows me," said Danielle Laduke.

LaDuke's fiance, Dany Gautier, drove big rigs for the last year.  He changed careers and got top-notch training.  "It's like the best place you can go," she said.

The Quebec truck driver loved his job, even though it meant days away from Danielle and their 2.5 year-old son. "He misses us, but he enjoys what he does, and he does it well," she said.

But last week, their lives were turned upside down following a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 89 near exit 15.  "When I found out he drove his truck off a bridge I didn't know what to expect,"  Laduke said.

"I could see we had a bad crash," said Winooski Fire Chief David Bergeron, who says it's the worst accident he's seen in 30 years. "The carnage was bad.  The tractor trailer truck was in pieces -- I mean, literally pieces.  It looked like it had been blown up in a war."

It happened at the height of a violent summer storm.  Three cars collided on the bridge over the Winooski River.  Dany's truck flew off the bridge to the ravine below.   At first the Chief thought no one could have lived.  "And we got the report back we had a survivor -- and he was pinned," Bergeron said.

A daring rescue mission was launched. Using ropes over the bridge and climbers on rugged terrain, first responders got the truck driver out and back on the bridge in about an hour.  He suffered a severe head injury and is still in critical condition. "His face was so swollen.  His eyes were swollen shut.  I was heartbroken, like anyone would be," Laduke said.

But Dany's lucky to be alive -- and so are the other people involved in the crash.  First responders say Dany saw the pile up ahead of him and veered off the bridge, avoiding an even worse accident. "If he'd have crashed into those vehicles top side, those vehicles would have been no match for that truck," Chief Bergeron said. "He probably would have walked away and that truck would have probably gone right over the top of those cars and we probably could have seen more fatalities."

"I know he couldn't have lived with himself if he had rammed into everybody," Laduke said. Danielle's not surprised by Dany's decision.  She says Dany's slowly getting better in the hospital.   He just opened his eyes and he's moving his arms and legs. "The only thing, the only logical thing that comes to mind is that God saved him cause he saved others. That's the bottom line for me.  I'm not a religious person but it's about the only logic I can pull out of the whole thing," she said.

Dany's fiance and doctors are encouraged by his progress, but it could be weeks before they know the long-term effects of his injuries.

As for the bridge -- it suffered some damage, but state officials says it's safe.  VTrans says repairs are set to start on July 8th. Crews will start work at 10 a.m., and wrap up around 2 p.m. to try to avoid high traffic times.

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