An 87-year-old Lower Macungie man crashed his pickup truck into three garages Thursday morning while attempting to back out of his driveway, causing a gas leak that required the temporary evacuation of 12 condominiums.
No injuries were reported at the scene at Letterkenny Lane and Donegal Drive but the driver was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest for a medical evaluation, according to state police from Troop M Fogelsville. The driver, John Howard Stevens of 6530 Letterkenny Lane, told Patch that the accelerator pedal seemed to malfunction and accelerated beyond his control, crashing the pickup.
The emergency was originally reported as a house explosion about 10:30 a.m. at 2892 Donegal Drive, which is in the Legacy Oaks 55-plus living community.
State Police reported that Stevens backed out of his driveway off Letterkenny Lane and hit a garage door behind his. Then he pulled the car forward, into his own garage and hit a wall shared by another condo. Then he reversed again and hit a third garage and a rear wall of a condo. The pickup struck a natural gas line and came to rest inside the garage at 6522 Letterkenny Lane.
Resident John Tycholiz of 2892 Donegal Drive said he had just gotten out of the shower when he heard a crash.
"I went to the garage and saw smoke. I saw the garage door buckled and smelled gas,” he said. He alerted neighbors and called 911.
Roads in the immediate area were shut down. State police at Fogelsville as well as several fire and ambulance and UGI crews responded. The gas was quickly shut down.
Jean Grossmann, Tycholiz’s next-door neighbor on Donegal Drive, was home at the time but didn’t hear the crash. Tycholiz banged on her door and warned her to get out of her home, she said.
“It was really scary,” Grossman said, adding she could smell the gas. “We got out right away.”
Altogether, damage was reported to four properties on Letterkenny and one on Donegal Drive, state police said.
State Police Sgt. David Nosal said UGI tested the air quality of the area afterward. “The air quality is good,” Nosal said.
Lower Macungie Assistant Fire Chief Brent McNabb said UGI would be digging up the street to repair the gas line.
Ben Galiardo, the Lower Macungie Emergency Coordinator who was coordinating the response, said those responding included firefighters from Lower Macungie and Upper Macungie departments, Lower Macungie Emergency Management and township personnel, Macungie Ambulance and fire police from Alburtis, Lower Macungie, Upper Macungie, Emmaus and Old Zionsville.