Witness tells of dramatic Highway 14 crash

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

EMERALD GROVE—A crash that closed 15 miles of Highway 11/14 east of Janesville on Wednesday morning is a lesson in how not to drive on a snow-covered road, a witness said.

Kyle Bliss saw the accident developing miles before it occurred and its dramatic aftermath.

Bliss was driving west when he came upon a line of cars following a snowplow just west of Four Corners, where highways 14 and 89 cross.

Two cars near the front of the line, a PT Cruiser and a Chrysler, passed the plow. It was about 8:30 a.m.

“They were in a rush. They passed the plow in a whiteout and took off,” said Bliss, who is production coordinator at the Janesville Gazette Printing & Distribution plant in Janesville.

“I thought it was pretty stupid. You couldn't even see,” Bliss said.

The plow turned off about a half mile later, allowing Bliss to see the two cars. They were about a mile ahead and pulling away fast.

Bliss was traveling about 45 mph. He estimated the cars ahead were going at least 60 mph. They disappeared over the hill outside of Emerald Grove. That's when it happened.

Bliss didn't see the crash but came upon it seconds later, he said.

The sheriff's office later reported that a PT Cruiser driven west by Alby Glembocki, 22, Burlington, slid across the center line. The driver of an eastbound semitrailer truck--Daniel Baker, 45, Waukesha--swerved, but his truck smashed head-on into the PT Cruiser.

The PT Cruised ended up in the north ditch. The semi slid into the south ditch and started on fire.

A westbound Chevrolet Impala driven by Ani Harper, 24, Janesville, tried to pass a vehicle that had slowed for the crash, lost control and collided with the rear axle of the semitrailer tractor, according to the sheriff's office.

Bliss said the PT Cruiser's front was a mangled mess, and the driver was trapped inside, complaining of abdominal pain.

Bliss and other witnesses tried to open the door with no success.

Bliss said he saw flames under the truck's cab, and the driver was still inside.

Bliss told the driver, who tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, with little effect.

The driver started packing his belongings, and he threw a small dog from the cab. Bliss retrieved it from a snowbank.

The cab became shrouded in smoke and flames, and Bliss couldn't see the driver for a moment.

“He pretty much jumped out of the door, into the snowbank, through the fire,” Bliss said.

“Ten seconds after that, the whole truck was a ball of flames.”

The truck driver told Bliss he had just unloaded in Janesville and was on his way to pick up a load in Walworth.

The Clinton Fire Department and Rock County sheriff's deputies were on the scene quickly and attended to the trapped driver, Bliss said.

The snow on the road was not deep, but it was slippery under the snow, Bliss said. His feet were sliding on the pavement.

“I think it was deceiving,” Bliss said, speculating that a coating of ice or melted snow preceded the snow cover overnight.

Officials soon rerouted traffic and shut down the highway from Janesville to the Walworth County line.

“It was a shocking way to start my morning,” Bliss said.

Glembocki and Harper were transported for medical care, treated and released, sheriff's Sgt. Troy Egger said. Baker was not injured.

Glembocki was cited for driving too fast for conditions and operating left of center. Harper was cited for operating left of center.

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