AKRON, Ohio - Akron police and witnesses believe a man, who died after the dump truck he was driving flipped into the Cuyahoga River, acted as "a hero" in the moments leading up to the horrifying crash.
The incident happened just after 11 a.m. behind the Valley Centre Shopping Center on Akron Peninsula Road.
Police said the 41-year-old Christopher Burgess from Ravenna was hauling sand when he lost his air brakes driving down Portage Trail. Other drivers said the truck sped through a busy intersection and the shopping center before striking a tree, going airborne and flipping onto its side and into the river.
Witnesses said the truck, owned by Huber Trucking, seemed like it was going 60 to 70 mph coming down the hill. The driver was seen waving his arms and honking his horn. Police the speed was 50 mph when it reached the parking lot.
Trista Merendino was sitting at the intersection and watched in horror as the accident happened.
"I could see his hands going up. He was very frantic. You could just tell he was very frantic. You could tell he sacrificed himself to not harm others. I believe he did save other lives. My heart breaks for him," Merendino said.
Treymaine Danzy was on his way to pick up his paycheck when he heard the horn and saw the truck barreling through the intersection.
"It was probably a couple seconds later, he would have probably crushed me, so it was a good thing he did blow. I really do believe that he made sure not to hit anybody... so that was courageous of him," Danzy said.
Dive teams from various fire departments responded to the scene and determined Burgess was dead inside the cab of the partially submerged truck.
A heavy crane was brought to the scene and worked throughout the afternoon to lift the truck out of the river.
Police Burgess is single and his father is a retired captain from the Hudson Fire Department.
Officers will perform an inspection on the truck in the next few days to determine why the brakes failed.
The owner of Huber Trucking, Jeff Huber, said Burgess inspected the truck this morning before he left on his routes and did not report any problems. Huber also said Burgess was a good driver and was never in a hurry.
Huber said he's not convinced that bad brakes led to the accident. "You can't point it to one thing and say they know that the brakes failed," Huber said.
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