A snowplow driver was fired after launching a spray of slush into oncoming highway traffic, damaging 55-cars on the Ohio Turnpike

·2 min read
Ohio turnpike snow plow
Michael Lemon
  • A plow operator in Ohio was fired after he was filmed launching snow over a highway median.

  • The slushy mess damaged about 55 vehicles and caused some personal injuries.

  • The turnpike commission suspended the driver before firing them for "grossly negligent behavior."

Ohio's Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has fired a snowplow operator after the driver directed snow and ice over the highway median and into oncoming traffic in January.

The incident spread across several miles, causing accidents involving about 55 vehicles and injuring 18 people, the local ABC affiliate reported.

Video from truck driver Michael Lemon shows passenger cars traveling down the Ohio Turnpike near Sandusky, Ohio, when an arc of slush suddenly emerges, blanketing everything with a thud and causing one vehicle to spin off of the embankment.

A termination letter from Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission director Ferzan Ahmed, obtained by News 5 Cleveland, charged the driver with "engaging in grossly negligent behavior as to endanger life, property, public safety or otherwise cause the Commission to be liable for damage."

"Further, you failed to responsibly perform duties that are within the proper scope of your position as a Maintenance Worker Class II Roadway employee," Ahmed added.

Ahmed also said in an earlier statement that turnpike commission employees have special training and equipment for clearing snow and ice and that the highway has one of the best safety records in the nation. The commission is a state entity, but separate from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

"This was an isolated incident involving a single operator and is not representative of our employees or our operations," Ahmed said.

The incident is certainly unusual for a profession that requires a commercial driver's license and additional training, but transportation officials in other areas of the country (not the Ohio Turnpike) have raised concerns about having enough drivers to operate safely.

Back in December, transportation officials in Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania told The Associated Press they were facing an ongoing shortfall of licensed and trained snowplow drivers this winter.

"When you're plowing the road, you need to know where the bridge abutment is and where the expansion joints are so you don't hook that with a plow," Washington state Department of Transportation spokesperson Barbara LaBoe said.

Meanwhile, some towns in Massachusetts resorted to offering wages up to $310 per hour, while Colorado's Department of Transportation added a $2,000 snow bonus for road-maintenance workers.

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