When Guy Orphanos got into his truck heading to Cambridge with a load of cherries on Friday, he never dreamed how close he would come to not returning home to his wife and two teenaged children.
The 47-year-old truck driver was in his big rig going westbound on the 401 at Yonge St. around 10:30am when a huge tire from the opposite lane of traffic came flying straight towards him.
It hit his rig at a high rate of speed and embedded itself into the driver’s side windshield. What happened next is nothing short of miraculous. Not only did it stop just inches from his head after hitting the steering wheel and the sun visor, but the veteran trucker actually managed to bring the giant vehicle to a halt without getting into an accident.
“I was going westbound on the 401 and I saw this bouncing tire coming from eastbound,” Orphanos recalls. “Where is it going to stop? So it came right in my left side window. So I just had the time to … stop the truck and lucky I’m alive and nobody got hurt. So it’s not that bad.”
Where did the round projectile come from? A Toyota SUV was heading eastbound with a rental trailer in the back carrying a load of furniture to a cottage. It’s unlikely the driver even knew one of the dual tires snapped off a broken axle and went bouncing into the other lane. The man behind the wheel was flagged down by others, who pointed out what happened.
Incredibly, Orphanos suffered only minor cuts and bruises from flying glass. He jokes that his truck, which he’s nicknamed the “Blue Mule” is now the “Broken Mule.” And despite his incredible escape, he’s grateful the wheel came at him and not at a car filled with a family or kids who might not have known how to react.
How does he account for his great escape? “I was not going that fast,” he answers. “When I saw the tire bouncing … I was going about 80 so when I saw it, I slowed it down and I stopped the truck.”
He claims he’s always looking all over the place on the road, a habit for which his wife often chastizes him. But now he’ll forever win those arguments.
“I was lucky the steering just stopped the tire,” he muses. “It happened so fast you don’t have time to think.”
It doesn’t appear the driver of the SUV will be charged. “I don’t think in this case here, the driver would even know there was a problem … with the axle,” explains OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford. “So I think it would be more that it would be the company that would be charged. You have to look at would the driver have known.”
Still, there’s been no decision on whether the firm that rented the trailer will face any legal action.