Two Amherst Highway Department employees were seriously injured Monday when they were thrown off a raised platform after it was struck by a tractor-trailer.
They were 30 feet off the ground on the basket platform of a traffic-signal tower truck as they worked to replace a street banner, according to town and police officials.
The accident occurred at 9:46 a.m. near Town Hall on Main Street, according to Amherst Police Capt. Patrick McKenna. No significant, accident-related charges have been made against the driver of the tractor trailer, though the investigation is continuing.
Both the town truck and a truck pulling a 53-foot trailer were in the eastbound lanes on Main, with the town truck in the left lane and the tractor-trailer passing in the right lane.
The tractor-trailer, driven by Jason Kelly, 35, of Syracuse, apparently jostled and clipped the raised platform on the town truck as it passed, flinging town employees Scott Charleson, 46, and Paul Mordaunt, 52, to the ground.
Both men suffered broken bones and were taken to Erie County Medical Center. Police and town officials said Charleson suffered a broken hip and wrist and a compound fracture to his thigh bone, which required surgery. Mordaunt apparently suffered a broken back, but no spinal cord injuries, and a broken hip and wrist.
Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson said both men were in stable condition and conscious when he visited them at the hospital Monday afternoon, but it was clear they face a long recovery. They spent most of Monday in the emergency room and were being admitted to the hospital.
"They are talking," Anderson said. "They're in a lot of pain. They're going to have to go through some major rehab."
Police said the tractor-trailer driver and his passengers, Misty Tedford and her infant child, were not hurt.
Capt. McKenna said that the police are continuing to investigate the accident and speak to witnesses but that, at this point, it does not appear the truck was of illegal size. The police originally had said Kelly was driving an oversized vehicle on Main Street, but that turned out not to be the case, McKenna said.
Police so far have charged Kelly with improper axle placement on his truck, but that was not a factor in the crash, McKenna said.
The crash closed Main between Cayuga Road and Mill Street for 4½ hours, police said.
Anderson, who had served as Charleson's and Mordaunt's general crew chief for eight years, said they are the "heart and soul" of the town's traffic signal repair division.
He expressed frustration that more care wasn't taken by the tractor-trailer driver in what was a high-caution area.
He said the four flashing lights on the tower truck kept it lit "like a Christmas tree."
"I guess I can't emphasize enough," he said, "people in these work zones need to pay attention."
News Staff Reporter Matt Gryta contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org