'Freak accident' sends metal piece through windshield

Truck driver Arthur Perkins speaks with Brandi Borders, a field service technician from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, after a part from his company's truck flew through the windshield of a vehicle passing in the opposite direction along State Road 20 in Hawthorne and hit the driver in the head. Melrose resident Jerry Blankenship, inset photo, suffered minor injuries in the accident on Monday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.

Pat Blankenship was reading when she heard the thud. Then: A spurt of blood and glass.

Blankenship had been immersed in a Diana Gabaldon novel, “An Echo In The Bone,” while her husband, Jerry Blankenship, drove along Southeast Hawthorne Road to their home in Melrose on Monday after a weekend in South Florida.

Art Perkins, who works for the Tampa-based DB Construction Services, was driving along the same road in the opposite direction. He was on his way to Bartow in a truck that was carrying a piece of machinery to be repaired.

At around 2:36 p.m., just after the vehicles had passed each other, a piece came loose from the underside of the company truck and somehow crashed into the windshield of the Blankenships' white truck.

Glass shattered inward as the metal cap hit the side of Jerry Blankenship's head, leaving a gash about three inches long before dropping into the backseat of their truck.

“(It) scared me because blood just spurted out all over,” Pat Blankenship said. “I looked up and there was glass and blood going everywhere.”

Jerry Blankenship, 72, had been driving on cruise control and saw the cap flying toward him. He had just enough time to jerk his head to the side, he said. Otherwise, it would have hit him in the face.

“By the time I got a glimpse of it and moved my head, it was there,” he said.

Pat Blankenship was not injured.

After her husband pulled off the road near the intersection of Southeast Hawthorne Road and Southeast 229th Drive, she grabbed a shirt that he could hold against his wound while she fished ice out of a soda cup for him to use.

An emergency response team helped clean him up and wrapped his head in gauze, she said. Personnel told the injured man, whose shirt was matted with blood and shimmered with what his wife said were tiny specks of glass, that he'd need two or three stitches.

When the metal piece flew off, Perkins said, he felt a vibration. He thought it was a flat tire and pulled off the road.

He was under the truck looking for what went wrong when Pat Blankenship walked over with the piece of metal, described as a cap from the truck's drive shaft or universal joint.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jacob Smith said there probably won't be any charges because it was a piece of the vehicle that broke off and caused the incident.

Jerry Blankenship planned to get stitches Monday afternoon and then finally make it home after a weekend away. But the couple's red-haired chow mix, Reba, would have to spend another night in the kennel because of what he called a “freak accident.”

“Nobody's fault,” he said. “It's just something that happened, man.”

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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