SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Shortly after 3:30 pm this afternoon a crew from Maplewood Tree was loading a stump grinder onto the trailer attached to a dump truck. At the time the truck was parked facing down-hill in front of 190 Underhill Road with its front wheels turned into the curb, and the other with a tire block. The full weight of the trailer and grinder caused the rear to dip, lifting the front wheels just high enough to clear the curb and take off, unmanned, down the hill. The truck crossed lawns, driveways, curbs and lastly Harding Drive, crashing through the landscaping and coming to rest on the front lawn of 320 Harding Drive, never touching the house. In its travels the truck had destroyed one street gas lamp.
The South Orange Police and a full complement of equipment from the South Orange Fire Department responded to the scene prepared for whatever they might find. The Rescue squad also responded. As fire Chief Daniel Sullivan said, “Until you’re on scene you don’t know just what will be needed including a possible extraction if someone is entrapped. For a call like this, we make sure we have the tools with us to take care of any situation”. Fortunately, no one was injured.
The firefighters were unable to locate the shut-off valve for the gas which could be smelled thanks to the chemical infused to give it odor, and PSE&G was called to attend to this. They also could not easily find the valve and called for a digging crew to either find it or install a temporary new one. Throughout this, one engine with a water and chemical supply stood by on Underhill Drive should a fire have ignited from the leaking gas.
The damage to 320 Harding Drive was totally to the grounds and a couple of small trees. Michael Pearce, the homeowner said “fortunately there wasn’t anyone on the truck. The property is on the lower side of the street, causing the truck, trailer and grinder to be situated as if it had fallen into a gully. Two heavy Duty Tow Trucks were called to the scene, Seton Towing of Maplewood and Sisbarro Towing of Union, to extricate the equipment from the property.