CLEVELAND -- Cleveland police body camera video captures an outrageous accident on the interstate as a car is lifted high into the air by a tow truck and then flipped into oncoming traffic with the driver still inside.
“It’s unbelievable; I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said attorney Tom Merriman, who is representing the victim and spoke exclusively with FOX 8’s Suzanne Stratford. “This is over the top, literally; this is so reckless.”
Merriman shared the shocking video Monday, and says it all started with a minor fender bender last April on Interstate 90 west near the Interstate 71 split during rush hour.
Twenty-four-year-old Cameron Jenkins was pulled off along the side of the freeway sitting inside his Kia with the driver's side window down and speaking with a Cleveland police officer.
The tow truck operator can be seen in the video preparing to tow the car, when all of a sudden the vehicle lifts up to a nearly vertical position and then flips over onto the hood and into the freeway lane.
“It happened so fast,” Jenkins said. “I feel my car slowly lift and it goes to where I’m looking straight forward and then the next thing I know I’m flipped over in my car.”
Jenkins said he remembers police officers trying to free him from the vehicle and how he was thrown around inside of it. He said he believes his head it the steering wheel and then the roof of the car as it landed on ground.
“He dropped from mid-air. It wasn’t like he just rolled; he slammed and he’s really lucky, he didn’t have his seat belt on at that point because he’s talking to the officer, but he got tossed around in that car. They thought his leg was broken -- was actually his head where he took the blow and that’s what he’s been struggling the most since is the closed head injury and concussion,” said Merriman.
The tow truck operator was on safety patrol and supposed to be there to provide roadside assistance.
Merriman said he and his client were very troubled when they saw the video and the tow truck operator's reaction to what was happening.
“The car flips off into the freeway; even if it was empty, he has no reaction to it at all,” said Merriman.
According to the police report, the tow truck operator told police that he was preparing the vehicle for transport and was going to tell the driver to step out when “the boom just kept coming up."
He said he “tried to disengage the boom, but it would not disengage."
He also said, “The buttons have been sticking for awhile and the bosses used the truck and knew about it."
The towing company is owned and operated by AutoBase Inc. based in New York.
The general manager, Joe Labella Sr., provided the following statement:
“We acknowledge that it happened, but can’t comment at this time due to pending litigation. We’re the largest provider of safety service patrol operations in the nation. We have a professional group of operators covering the entire state of Ohio and throughout 8 states.”
Merriman and his client say that’s not good enough, and they’d like to see a serious investigation.
“We’re lucky this wasn’t a fatality,” said Merriman. “We’re lucky this wasn’t a multi-car crash caused by this car being dropped into traffic; someone needs to look at this.”
Since the accident and head injury, Jenkins said he has struggled with symptoms including insomnia, nausea, dizziness and trouble concentrating. He said he feels fortunate to be alive, but also wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.