CLEVELAND-Police video just released to the FOX 8 I-Team gives us a close-up look for the first time at the one big mistake that led to a truck spilling sharp, metal debris all over I-77 leaving dozens of drivers with flat tires and many more drivers sitting in stopped traffic.
Last month, Cleveland police had to shut down a big section of I-77 just south of downtown. A truck went down the highway dropping scrap metal. So much of it littered the highway, police said, at the time, more than 100 vehicles ended up with flat tires and other damage.
The I-Team requested police body camera video from the scene. And on the video, you see the truck driver showing an officer what went wrong. The back gate of the truck had not been fully closed and latched.
An officer asked the driver, "Can you give me an idea of why this tailgate's not secured?" The driver answered, "This other fella was driving the truck. He got it loaded. I took off with the truck; maybe I should’ve checked to make sure the tailgate was locked before I left the yard."
New records show some repair bills added up to thousands of dollars. It cost that much to replace tires and fix what happened when drivers swerved and crashed.
The officer also asked the driver, "After this was loaded did you do a pre-check (inspection) on it?" The driver said he had not done that.
The driver, Thomas Paul Podgurski. He had been driving for a company called Nat Services.
On Tuesday, the I-Team went there. We asked a man in the office if the company has been taking any steps to make things right with drivers. He answered, "Yeah, we've just been funneling everybody who calls through our insurance company."
Meantime, we investigated what kind of punishment could that driver face? At the scene, police gave him a ticket for allowing the load on the truck to spill -- couple of charges; both carry, at most, some fines and a little jail time. Thomas Paul Podgurski is pleading not guilty.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol also found trucking company violations after doing an inspection at the scene.
But the video just released reveals how the big mess came from one big mistake.
Podgurski described to an officer how the metal spilled on the highway, saying, “And it started coming out.”
The driver is due back in court later this month.