The driver of a tractor-trailer was killed and five other persons were injured yesterday when the truck collided with an auto on the Woodrow Wilson bridge, crashed through a guard rail and plunged 60 feet into the Potomac River, Maryland State Police said.
The dead man, Earcel Faircloth, 21, of Stanford, Fla., was trapped in the submerged cab of the huge rig for about two hours before his body was extricated by D.C. police divers, officials said. Two passengers in the truck also plunged into the river with it, but managed to swim to the surface where they were picked up by passing boats.
The two were identified as Faircloth's wife, Anita, 19, and his brother, Elwood, 27. Both were taken to Alexandria Hospital where the woman was listed in stable condition last night with multiple cuts and bruises. Elwood Faircloth was treated for cuts and released, hospital officials said.
Three passengers in the auto were also injured in the crash on the bridge. They were identified as Keith Cheeks, 20, the driver, 2-year-old Cornell Cheeks and his sister Marnetta, 4, all of the 5300 block of Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. NE
The two children were taken to Children's Hospital where Cornell was in serious condition with head injuries. Marnetta was treated for minor injuries and released, a hospital spokesman said. Keith Cheeks was admitted to Alexandria Hospital where he was listed in good condition last night. The relation between Keith Cheeks and the children could not be immediately determined.
According to police, the accident occurred about 6:15 p.m. in the westbound traffic lanes about 80 yards east of the center draw span.
Witnesses said the tractor-trailer, which was hauling a load of bread, was westbound in the lane closest to the center of the bridge when it came up behind a car that apparently had stalled during the evening rush hour. Witnesses said the truck swerved in an attempt to avoid the car, struck it, then careened across two lanes and tore through 12 feet of guard railing before it plunged into the river.
"The guy [driver] was a hell of a driver because he could have hit a lot more cars," said George Fry, who said he was a passenger in a car traveling west behind the truck but in a different lane.
The truck plunged cab-fired into the river and became imbedded in the river bottom with a portion of its trailer jutting above the surface, police said.
The accident tied up traffic on the bridge for more than an hour during the evening rush hour, Maryland State Police said.
Another witness to the plunge of the huge rig into the river was Bob Dinndorf, who was sitting on a friend's boat at the time, his back to the bridge. The boat was moored in a marina close to the span.
"When I focused on what had happened, about all there was left to see was a huge splash of water," Dinndorf said. CAPTION: Picture 1, Scuba diver stands on trailer of submerged tractor-trailer as river police and firemen in nearby boat stand by to aid rescue effort. by John McDonnell - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Onlookers line Woodrow Wilson Bridge to watch rescue effort after tractor-trailer plunged into Potomac.; Picture 3, Rescue craft surround tractor-trailer that went off the driver was killed, and five persons were injured. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge about 6 p.m. yesterday. The truck first struck a car. By Joel Richardson - the Washington Post