Truck driver Marlon Brooks kept his cool: Failing brakes caused truck to roll over

POSTED: 04/26/12 1:14 PM

St. Maarten – Marlon Brooks, the truck driver who was involved in the traffic accident at the Kruythoff roundabout on Monday whereby his truck rolled over says that the brakes of his truck were failing when he came down the Harold Jack Hill. In the extensive statement he sent to this newspaper, Brooks, 28, gives a unique insight in what actually happened, how he weighed his options and which critical decisions he took.

Brooks wrote that he has been driving heavy trucks for close to ten years. “My father owns tourist busses and I learned to drive them. In my opinion, I am a well experienced driver with various types of heavy equipment and vehicles.”

He wrote his statement to answer to speculations about the accident and to statements made by the police.

“Before the accident, I had already done some container deliveries around the island. In this case, this would have been my second to last delivery for the day.

When I was coming down the hill, I started braking (change into low gear) from the area of Harold Jack to Dr. Winter’s home (middle of descent of the hill). This is customary. All was well with the brakes up to that point and onward. When I was nearing the last corner coming down the hill before the roundabout, I realized that the truck was accelerating, which means that the brake air pressure was not functional. In laymen’s terms this means that the regular brakes gave out.”

Brooks did not panic: he went to the truck drivers’ plan B: “I then began to apply the container brakes and they too failed. I started to think about what possible situations may occur. I knew that there were two possible scenarios.  One scenario is that I can try to steer the truck around the roundabout and into the open area where the gentleman fixes radiators so that the wall will jam the wheel.

“The other scenario would be that the truck would topple over because of the speed as well as the weight of the container.  The container contained supermarket supplies, juices, food stuff, rice, flour, etc. with an approximation weight of 25 to 35 tons.

“I took the corner a little wide, so that if scenario one was possible, I would have enough space to steer the truck into the open area. When I realized that because of the weight, the container may overturn before I could steer it to the open area, I switched off the engine while it was being overturned. Because I was already coming down slowly before the brakes gave out, there were no cars in front me and no oncoming traffic.

“I had already prepared myself mentally for this scenario. As the truck was overturning, I began to climb out to get to the passenger side. Because the seat is an air seat I lost my grip while I was climbing out to get to the passenger side, with the impact as the truck overturned. I slid back into the driver’s seat and that is the reason my left hip and foot were pinned between the door and the steering wheel.

“I did not panic after this because I was already mentally prepared and had myself in a position to acquire the least possible injuries and I was comforted to know that no one else was involved in the accident.

The first person on the scene was a fellow truck driver known as Hammer, who was driving behind me and saw what happened. He asked me if I was okay and if I was hurting anywhere; he began to clear out some of the debris, which was the back and front windshield which were blown out. Then a medical person, Mr. Raymond Antoine, who happened in be in the area, came and identified himself and proceeded to check my vitals and inquired if I was feeling pain anywhere.

“I explained to him what had happened. After that, I called my boss, Alex, to tell him what had happened and that I was okay. I told him that he needs to bring the side-loader – the equipment that lifts containers.

Then I heard the siren of the police, fire trucks, and ambulance. When the police arrived, an officer came and asked my name, date of birth, place of birth, and the contact number for the owner of the truck.

Two friends of mine, Shervin and Carlos, who are also firefighters, realized that it was me in the truck. They began to ask me if everything was alright, where I had pain and told me that it looks like that they will have to cut me out and that they are setting up the “Jaws of Life” to cut me out.

“Then another friend, Ryan, who works at the EMS Service and some of his co-workers came and took my vitals as well as blood and then put  on an IV in my hand and asked me how my breathing was. I told them I am ok, but they suggested that I still put on the oxygen mask.”

At this point, Brooks stresses some vital points in his statement: “I had no problem with them doing whatever they were doing because I do not drink any alcohol or any beverage containing any amount of alcohol whatsoever. And neither do I smoke.

“Then Mr. Tony Gibbs of the Fire Department approached the truck and asked me if I was sure that everything was ok. He explained to me what was about to take place. Thereafter the firefighters set up their equipment to cut the truck. After the truck was cut, they were able to angle the “Jaws of Life” to cut the steering wheel and I was able to be pulled out. I was then transported to the hospital for further treatment.

While Brooks went outwardly calm through the whole experience, he did wonder afterwards about a couple of things: “The police has not asked me to see my driver’s license, or come to the hospital to interview me or asked me how the accident happened. They sort of speculated that I was driving at high speed. Driving at high speed would be a normal occurrence, if anyone is going downhill without brakes. But that is clearly different from speeding. I have left my numbers available with the police for any questions necessary for their investigation.

“Suggestions are being made about heavy equipment working from sunset to sunrise, but we have to take into consideration that St. Maarten has a very busy “night life”. People consume a lot of alcohol and especially at night. Being a night driver myself, I often witness people driving crazy or barely missing being in an accident. Imagine how it would be if heavy equipment is on the road with drunk drivers.

Even during the day, drivers should be more cautious. As truck drivers we have be more focused than ever. Many drivers (especially busses) suddenly stop without taking into consideration what is driving behind them or they suddenly pull out on the road taking a chance because they have to think they have judged the timing of the oncoming truck.

“Drivers have to understand that these heavy equipments are protected by a grill and they will be the ones to get hurt. And then who will get blamed? Always the truck driver, whilst it was actually the other driver who was not cautious. As a requirement, we truck drivers have to check our trucks every day before we go out on the road.

“Still after all is said and done, I want to give thanks to God for having spared me and the situation from being worse and for giving me the vision to prepare myself mentally for the oncoming situation. Then I also want to thank the police, fire department, ambulance, EMS personnel, my boss and family, my fellow truck drivers and port staff. Special thanks also to Hammer and off-duty personnel Mr. Antoine.

Lastly my family and friends near and far and clients of the company and all well wishers. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again.”

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