A Turlock man could have been killed after a 4-by-4 post shot out of a flatbed truck and smashed through his windshield Thursday morning on Highway 99, authorities said.
"It bounced up into my windshield, right in front of me, right in my face," said Brian Bratcher, 45. "If it had been an inch higher, it would have been through my head."
The post caught the dash and ripped it to pieces, Bratcher said. It hit the roof, then flipped out of the truck.
Bratcher just had dodged a post from the flatbed truck when the second one hit his 1992 Dodge Dakota pickup about 8:15 a.m. as he drove north. Bratcher said he followed the 2003 Reliant flatbed truck because it kept going.
Bratcher said he caught up with the truck and motioned the driver to the side of the road before calling 911. Then he called his wife.
California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Killian said Bratcher is lucky to be alive. The post that smashed Bratcher's windshield likely had about 600 pounds of force.
"It's like a fence post. If that thing is coming through your windshield at that speed, it could easily kill you," Killian said. "Anything that has enough force to get through the windshield could cause deadly injuries."
The CHP identified the flatbed truck's driver as Dannail Khoy, 24, of Bakersfield. Killian said the incident is under investigation. But he added that Khoy could be cited with an infraction or charged with a misdemeanor over failing to secure the pieces of lumber.
Oregon officials confirmed Thursday that Khoy tipped over his big rig on a freeway in that state last year, spilling lumber and diesel fuel and closing Interstate 5 for several hours.
Thursday morning, Khoy was driving north on Highway 99 in a 2003 Reliant flatbed truck, Killian said. He was in the center lane about one-tenth of a mile south of Taylor Road. Khoy told the CHP that he was driving 55 mph. Bratcher was in the left lane, driving 55 to 60 mph.
Bratcher said he was driving to Salida, feeling happy about beginning a teaching job at the Modesto Institute of Tech- nology. Then he saw the first 4-by-4 shoot out from underneath Khoy's truck. He dodged the post by swinging left toward the median.
Truckers often carry posts on racks beneath their rigs, Killian said. The posts are used to hold down cargo and, by law, must be secured.
"Just as I straightened out, another one came out from underneath his tires," Bratcher said.
"It's pretty much like somebody shooting you in the face with a shotgun full of glass slivers," he said of the shattering windshield.
Lisa Bratcher, 41, rushed from work to meet her husband after he called her.
"My instant reaction was, 'Oh, my God, where is he?' " she said. "Then I saw him standing up. And I thought, 'Everything's OK because he's standing up.' "
After she reached him and saw he was all right, she said, she collapsed.
"Damn it," she told him. "I hate your guts."
"I know," he said. "I love you, too."
Both eyes injured
After the CHP responded, Bratcher went to the hospital. He learned that his right eye was lacerated and his left eye had glass in it.
"They brushed off what they could, but I have glass in my eyes, ears, nose, mouth. Down my throat. Glass went down the neck of my shirt, down my back. It's like someone took a wire brush and then washed my face with it."
Bratcher said he will return to the hospital today for follow-up care. He didn't know how long recovery could take.
Khoy appears to have had no other accidents in California, Killian said.
However, in May in Oregon, Khoy was cited on suspicion of careless driving after his truck overturned on I-5 as he was entering the freeway, according to published reports. Khoy was driving a 1999 Freightliner and trailer on a southbound onramp when his truck tipped over about 3:30 a.m. It blocked the road, which was closed until 7:30 a.m. No one was injured.
An official with Khoy's employer declined to say what actions the company might take in response to Thursday's accident.
"It's only been a few hours," said Dennis Williams, risk manager for System Transport Inc. of Washington state. "There will be a complete investigation."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2235.