Driver injured in 3-vehicle crash

Accident, fire slow Pike traffic

GRAFTON —  A pickup truck speeding in the breakdown lane on the Massachusetts Turnpike yesterday caused a three-vehicle crash, seriously injuring the pickup driver and worsening traffic already stressed by an earlier closure caused by a tractor-trailer fire, state police said.

Troopers went to the eastbound side of the turnpike in Grafton for an accident about 9:20 a.m. Police said a 2008 Toyota Tundra driven by a 43-year-old man from southeastern Massachusetts was speeding in the breakdown lane when it swerved to avoid a 1997 Ford Escort that was disabled and stopped in the breakdown lane.

Police said the Tundra struck the Escort and continued to its left, where it entered the rightmost travel lane and smashed into the back of a 2002 Freightliner tractor hauling an empty trailer. The California-registered Freightliner was stopped in residual traffic caused by an early truck fire about a mile to the east.

The impact of the crash crumpled the Tundra’s front-end under the rear of the trailer, trapping the driver in the cab. State troopers and Grafton firefighters worked for 25 minutes to free the driver from the pickup, police said.

The driver was taken by rescue helicopter to UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus. Police did not identify the man, but said he suffered serious injuries.

The drivers of the tractor-trailer, a 49-year-old Glendale, Calif., man, and the Escort, a 26-year-old Douglas man, were not injured, police said.

Police said the crash remains under investigation, but noted that state law prohibits unauthorized use of breakdown lanes. The westbound side of the turnpike and the two left-most eastbound lanes were reopened shortly after 10:30 a.m.

The eastbound right travel lane and the breakdown lane, however, remained closed until 12:33 p.m. for the crash investigation and cleanup. The closures caused traffic backups of several miles in both directions, the eastbound backup reaching approximately eight miles, police said.

At the time of the crash, the tractor-trailer involved was in residual stop-and-go traffic caused by a fire that burned another tractor-trailer about a mile to the east at 1:55 a.m. In that incident, a tractor-trailer out of Ontario, Canada, was hauling corn when its brakes caught on fire. The fire was put out by Grafton and Westboro firefighters.

The fire suppression and cleanup operation forced complete closing of the eastbound lanes for a period of time, and partial closing thereafter, causing the traffic backup that still existed at the time of the later crash. The corn was off-loaded and hauled away. The Great Superior-made trailer is owned by Scotlyn Commodities of Vittoria, Ontario. The tractor, a 2000 Kenworth truck, was owned by its driver, a Guelph, Ontario, man who was not injured in the fire.