Driver back behind wheel after steel beam crashes through windshield on I-96
Johnnie Lowe said he saw the steel beam fall from the back of a truck and bounce off the pavement before it flew through his windshield.
"I saw it all happen," he said. "And my life was flashing before my eyes. I was thinking about my kids, my mom, pretty much everything."
Lowe, 49, of Wayne was on his way to Lansing to pick up some auto parts for a customer of the company for which he works, DNC Logistics in Taylor. He said he's been with the company for a few months but has been a truck driver for about six years.
The father of three was traveling west on Interstate 96 in Williamston at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday when the piece of metal crashed through his truck's windshield, he said.
"I thought it was just going to hit the front of the truck," Lowe said. "But it climbed up the grille, rolled up the hood and shot through the windshield."
The beam had been on the back of a flatbed truck traveling in the same direction as Lowe but further up the road and it fell when the other truck swerved into the freeway's fast lane, he said.
"As he did that, I saw something move and fly off his truck," he said. "At first I thought it was plank from a privacy fence. I had the truck on cruise control at about 65 mph and I came up to it pretty fast and it bounced."
Lowe said he instinctively brought up his left arm to block the projectile and kept his right hand on the steering wheel as he gradually applied the brakes.
"The glass exploded and I tried to play peek-a-boo to get off on the shoulder," he said.
He said his truck's dashboard and steering wheel were the only things that stopped the beam from impaling him.
Lowe felt something wet on his face and instantly thought it was blood, he said. He grabbed his tablet computer to look and saw only one small spot of blood.
"Thank God," he said. "Otherwise, I was just covered in glass."
Lowe said he called 911 to report the crash and then called his boss at work.
Jerry Babcock, DNC Logistics' general manager, said the company is grateful Lowe wasn't hurt.
"He was distraught, but he said he was OK," Babcock said. "It was a pretty traumatic thing."
He also said he let Lowe know later how happy he and the company was that the driver was safe and that he handled the situation the way it should have been handled.
"He did it spot on," Babcock said. "He did what he should have done. Taking that in the windshield at 60-65 mph and not losing control of his truck was just amazing."
Unfortunately, the truck that the beam fell from was about 100-200 yards ahead of Lowe's truck on the freeway, so he couldn't see a license plate or any markings on it, he said.
Once things had calmed down, Lowe's boss gave him the rest of the day off and Friday with pay and offered additional time, but he said he wanted to get back behind the wheel Monday.
"I'm a go-getter and I just wanted to get back to work," Lowe said.