Driver hurt in I-79 crash

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A Canonsburg teenager whose car went airborne and crossed the median of Interstate 79 near the Southpointe interchange, crashing head-on with another vehicle, was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital Tuesday afternoon for treatment of serious injuries.


State police in Washington said the driver, identified as 18-year-old Nicholas T. Harrison, was talking to them as he was being loaded into an ambulance headed for Allegheny General Hospital. Troopers were amazed he had survived the crash, which crushed his vehicle and scattered automotive parts across the highway. Harrison was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from the vehicle at impact. He was listed in serious condition Tuesday night.


Troopers said he was northbound before the exit to Southpointe when he went off the road, crossed into the opposing lanes and struck a vehicle that was headed south. The driver of that car, 48-year-old Eric J. Nichols of Eighty Four, was in fair condition Tuesday night.


Sonny Gambardella, who was driving a tractor-trailer also traveling southbound, was behind the vehicle that was hit and immediately swerved to miss slamming into both vehicles.


“All I could see was his big eyes,” he said of the driver who had gone off the northbound side.


It was the first time he had been in an accident in the 53 years he has been a truck driver, he said. He drives for Birk Transfer Inc. out of Johnstown.


Traffic was backed up in the southbound lanes of the highway for about an hour as troopers took photographs, state Department of Transportation crews removed debris and the vehicles were towed from the scene.


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