OAKLAND, N.J. – A retired Bloomingdale volunteer firefighter stood atop the door of an overturned dump truck filled with rocks on Route 287 in Oakland, trying to get to its pinned driver, when a tractor-trailer suddenly slammed into them Friday morning.
“I was just about to open the passenger side door when I heard air brakes and tires squealing,” Joseph Keegan II told Daily Voice. “I kept the door shut and held onto the door rail for dear life.”
The impact pushed the dump truck further onto the divider.
“I ended up taking a rodeo ride,” Keegan said.
A responder who arrived soon after the 5:30 a.m. pileup – which also involved an SUV -- said Keegan certainly would have died if he hadn’t held on.
The crash closed 287 for miles and caused major problems on Routes 202, 208 and 23 for hours.
Keegan was heading south on Route 287 to his engineering job on Long Island when the trouble began.
“It was raining. I could feel the road was a little slick,” he said.
“The dump truck driver ahead of me hit his brakes and all of a sudden just lost it,” Keegan told Daily Voice. “He did a 360 and was getting the truck under control when he hit the divider.
“That flipped it.”
Keegan parked his car in front of the truck and climbed up onto the passenger side.
“Hang on! Hang on!” Keegan shouted to him.
Then came the first crash, followed by another when an SUV hit the wreckage.
Keegan called 911.
Police blocked the road from further traffic and were quickly joined by firefighters.
“The dump truck driver was breaking the windshield,” Keegan said. “I helped him out, then put him next to the divider. He stood there all shaken up and shocked.
“Then I put him in my car until EMS arrived.”
Both drivers ended up in the emergency room.
So did Keegan, a 24-year firefighting veteran who retired in 1985 and has five sons – ranging from 19 to 26 years old – as well as a three-month-old grandson.
“I got some bumps and bruises, a cut under my eye, a welt on my head. My elbows and hip are banged up, and I'm pretty sore" he said. “But the x-rays and CT scan all came out good.”
“It’s funny,” Keegan said. “They say your life flashes before you sometimes. Just before the impact, I saw my grandson’s face.”
After being released from the hospital in the late morning, Friday’s hero was back on the road – toward home.
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