Athens, Ohio — Driver dies after semi-truck slides off Rt. 33 overpass onto Richland Avenue

Truck driver identified as Georgia man

A Georgia man died early this (Monday) morning after the semi-truck he was driving lost control on an icy U.S. Rt. 33 overpass over Richland Avenue on Athens’ South Side and careened off the overpass onto Richland.

Sgt. Chris Davis of the State Highway Patrol’s Athens Post Monday morning identified the driver who died in the crash as Jeffery Byrd, 56, of Twin City, Georgia.

A report issued by the State Highway Patrol later Monday morning described the accident, which occurred shortly after 5 a.m. Monday: “The (semi-truck pulling a tanker trailer heading westbound on U.S. Rt. 33) slid off the left side of the road, striking a guardrail and riding up and over a concrete bridge rail. The truck and trailer went over the bridge rail and landed on Richland Avenue in the City of Athens.” The truck then slid across Richland Avenue, coming to rest on an embankment on the north side of the road, according to Sgt. Davis.

The overpass travels over the short section of Richland Avenue just past Pete’s BP as Richland changes into a four-lane on-ramp for U.S. Rt. 50 West.

Chris Goss, another sergeant at the Athens Post of the OSHP, said the truck was carrying high-fructose corn syrup in its tanker trailer (the owner of the vehicle is Food Liner out of Iowa) and said no explosions or fires were associated with the wreck. No other injuries were reported as a result of the accident, he added.

Sgt. Davis said that while some of the corn syrup spilled from the tanker trailer, the accident site was not considered a hazmat spill.

While the accident was still under investigation, Goss said the driver apparently was traveling too fast to maintain control on the icy highway.

This isn’t the section of nearby highway with the long, often-hazardous curve, but rather a relatively straight section that enters Athens from the southeast and joins up with U.S. Rt. 50 as it passes through Athens.

The westbound lane of U.S. Rt 33 in that area was closed this morning. Richland Avenue also was closed to traffic just southwest of the intersection of Richland and Pomeroy Road (Old Rt. 33), near Pete’s BP. It will remain that way for at least the rest of today, Goss said.

“It’s going to be an all-day clean-up,” he said.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol was aided on scene by the Athens Police Department, Athens County EMS, Athens City Fire Department and the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to a release from the State Patrol Monday morning.

Sgt. Davis also confirmed that another traffic fatality had occurred in the area this morning, during the sleet and snow, on Elmrock Road near Nelsonville. He didn’t have any further details on that accident

Athens County remains under a Level 2 Snow Emergency. Transportation officials urge drivers to use caution.