Truck driver flees hit-and-run crash on Route 17

A snow plow and two tractor trailers were involved in a series of accidents caused by "speed and poor decisions" at exit 96 on Route 17 in the Sullivan County town  of Rockland on Wednesday, according to the New York State Police.

One tractor-trailer driver fled the scene and was trailed by an off-duty New York State Department of Transportation employee for miles into Delaware County before being caught in the town of Hancock, police say. 

On Wednesday, March 4, "at the beginning of the morning commute," a tractor trailer hauling garbage attempted to pass a snow plow while heading west on Route 17, a press release states. While trying to pass, the truck side swiped the plow, and both vehicles stopped.

Another truck passing by at high speed -- the driver was ticketed for hitting speeds of 90 miles per hour -- began jack-knifing and hit the first truck, ripping the side of his rig open, police say. That second truck driver, 24-year-old Juan J. Torres, reportedly didn't stop, but "left the scene at a high rate of speed."

According to the press release, a DOT employee chased him for miles:

An off-duty NYS DOT employee driving his own personal vehicle witnessed the incident and followed the Midnight Express truck from the scene and into Delaware County and past the next four exits. The man was able to alert authorities via mobile phone to the whereabouts of the fleeing truck. The tractor trailer was traveling at very high speed and was finally detained at the East Branch Rest Area in the town of Hancock.

No one was injured, police say. The driver of the garbage trailer was 50-year-old Robert L. Gould, who was ticketed for unsafe passing. Torres, the driver of the fleeing truck, was ticketed for speeding, and his damaged trailer was put out of service.

Truck traffic is heavy on Route 17, especially in the early morning hours, when garbage trucks hauling trash from the city head northwest upstate. In December 2014, a five tractor trailers were involved in a crash on Route 17 in the town of Thompson that caused the death of a 65-year-old New York City woman.