Truck Driver Describes I-10 Crash as the Worst He's Ever Seen

by Jana Ritter - Published: 9/04/2014

As someone who has been driving big rigs across the US for over twenty-years, Keith Wilkes has certainly witnessed plenty of accidents. But what he saw unfold right before his eyes while driving on the Interstate 10 on Tuesday, he says is the worst he’s seen yet.

I-10 Crash

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"You get up every morning to go do your job you never know what's going to happen out here with all the traffic," Wilkes explains.

He certainly didn’t expect what happened on this particular day when he had been driving his big rig along the highway and was behind another 18-wheeler He had noticed that traffic had stopped up ahead and as he himself began to slow down, he noticed the rig ahead of him didn’t seem to be doing the same. The next thing he saw was the big rig swerving, hitting the median, then making a complete 360 in the air, before crashing and exploding.

While Wilkes got the first hand rear view of the accident unfold, what he didn’t know at the time was that the I-10 was slowed to a stop after an earlier crash occurred in Louisiana. According to the DPS preliminary investigation, Ewen McElveen, (the driver of the 18 wheeler), had failed to see the stopped traffic and didn’t realize until it was too late. He had tried to swing into the inside lane to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him, but instead hit another vehicle and then the concrete divider. The impact caused the 18-wheeler to catch fire and even dislodge the truck from its trailer before landing in the west bound lanes.

Wilkes said that for him, the most traumatizing part of the tragedy was seeing the 18-wheeler's passenger make his way out of the can and onto the highway completely engulfed in flames. He and other drivers immediately ran to the man’s rescue doing whatever they could to help get the fire out. Although the man is suffering from severe burns, he is expected to survive. The drivers of two additional vehicles were also hospitalized with injuries but in stable condition.

Tragically the driver of the 18-wheeler was not so lucky. Robert William McElveen, 53, was pronounced dead at the scene by Orange County Justice of the Peace, Judge David Peck.

After witnessing such a horrific tragedy first hand, Wilkes said the first thing he did was call his wife "I told her I loved her," he said. But he admits he’s still shaken up by the event.

"You got to go to bed at night thinking about what you saw," Wilkes said.