Seconds to spare

The driver who crashed his tandem-trailer semi through two vehicles, brick wall, and downtown building, identified by Oakland County Sheriff’s Office as a 52-year-old Oxford man, gives the “OK” sign to bystanders after being extricated from his crushed truck. Photo by Brenda Dominick


Clarkston News Staff Writer

Angie Brennan and fellow employees had seconds to react when they saw a double-tandem gravel hauler bearing down on their Main Street dental office.

“We were out front in the reception area and we had this big window – we saw the truck coming and I yelled ‘run,’” said Brennan, office manager at Clarkston Village Dental.

The truck struck two vehicles and smashed through a brick wall before plowing into the downtown building at 55 S. Main Street at 1:17 p.m., last Friday, April 20.

“We ran as far as we could and then the truck just kind of stopped, like, two feet in front of us,” Brennan said. “It was crazy. Just crazy. I feel like my brother Ronnie was watching over me.”

Dr. Kamini Kapoor, DDS MS, was treating a patient in an examination room towards the back.

“I was tying the last stitch when it happened,” Dr. Kapoor said.

Members of Clarkston Area Optimist Club and city workers were installing playground equipment in Depot Park directly behind the dental office when the crash occurred.

“It was noisy as hell,” said Optimist Jim Evans.

“It was a big boom,” said Eric Haven of Friends of Depot Park, also a City Council member.

For Optimist Tom Lowrie, with more than 30 years in the landscape business, it sounded like an enormous dump truck dropping its whole load of boulders.

“But it kept going on and on, for 30 to 40 seconds,” Lowrie said.

The group ran up the hill into the stricken building to check for casualties.

“We ran into the office and the truck was still running. We yelled, ‘is there anyone in here,’ and no one responded. I’m glad no one seemed injured,” Lowrie said. “We could smell the gas. There was no desk anymore, just a pile of bricks. We looked for people in the rubble. We looked in all the offices but we didn’t see anybody.”

“You want to see if you can help,” Haven said. “There were bricks all around. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

The driver, still in the truck, didn’t respond to their shouts and seemed unconscious, Lowrie said.

“When police and fire showed up, we said, ‘let’s go back and leave it to the pros,’” he said.

First responders started showing up in under a minute, Evans said.

“The fire department and police did an excellent job,” he said.

With a half day of school for Clarkston students and nice weather that day, downtown was busy with pedestrians. However, no one was seriously injured in the crash, said Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Perry.

“We’re very fortunate not to have serious injuries, with that time of day and the number of people in the dentists’ office,” said Perry, Independence Township substation commander, at the April 23 City Council meeting. “It’s not something you’d ever think would ever happen in town like this.”

“It’s a miracle (no one was killed),” said City Manager Jonathan Smith, who ran up to the scene with the Optimists, along with DPW Director Mike Speagle.

“That’s probably very heroic in and of itself – above and beyond doesn’t even begin to describe them,” said Mayor Steven Percival. “They also worked the rest of day and into the evening. We’re very lucky to have Jonathan and Mike. They never stand in the background, always out front to help when needed.”

“You get to see how a community comes together when there a great test of adversity,” Perry said. “I’m proud of my people, the fire department, everyone who assisted us in that situation.”

Independence Township Fire Chief Mitch Petterson, at right, discusses the situation with firefighters after a truck slammed into downtown Main Street Friday afternoon. Photo by Phil Custodio

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