Lexington trucker recovering after Oklahoma tornado blew rig off overpass

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMay 22, 2013 

Severe Weather

The cab of a tractor trailer, center, owned by Blair Transport out of Paintsville, Ky landed on I-40 near Shawnee, OK on Sunday May 19, 2013 after being blown from US 177, above, by a tornado. The driver of the rig is in an Oklahoma trauma center suffering from head and spine injuries. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)

JIM BECKEL — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Johnson County trucking company owner Chris Blair said he was concerned that one of his drivers could be headed into a tornado Sunday outside Shawnee, Okla.

Blair said he tried a dozen times to reach Steve Everett's cellphone but there was no answer. Before long, a GPS tracking device alerted Blair that something had gone "horribly wrong" with the tractor trailer that Everett, who is from Lexington, was driving west on Interstate 40.

Everett had stopped on an overpass, with the intention of getting out of the vehicle and finding a safe spot, said Blair, co-owner of Blair Transport Inc.

"Before he could get out of the vehicle, the wind picked the truck up and blew it off the overpass, blew it ... off the bridge and it fell 50 or 75 feet below. There was another road below it and it fell on that road," Blair said.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma University Medical Center spokesman Dennis Gimmel said Everett was in critical condition. Everett, 44, suffered injuries to his collarbone and spine, his wife, Crystal Everett, said Wednesday from the hospital. Crystal Everett said her husband underwent surgery Tuesday, and she was waiting to get more information about the extent of the injuries to his spine.

She asked that people "keep us in their prayers."

Blair said that initially, he had no idea that Everett was one of the hundreds of people injured earlier this week by the tornadoes. At least 24 deaths are blamed on the twisters that hit Oklahoma..

"We knew something was wrong," because the tracking device was showing the truck going in a direction "it shouldn't have been going in" he said.

Blair said he found out about the accident when another one of his company's drivers came upon it about two hours later.

By that time, he said, Everett, who had been hauling a load of plastic cups from a Bowling Green factory to Los Angeles, was on his way to a hospital.

Blair said his company had experienced only a few accidents in the last 15 years, and never one caused by a tornado.

"We didn't imagine this,'' he said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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