PROVIDENT, Ohio — A Belmont County man is without a home after a loaded milk truck crashed into the side of his house Feb. 5, shattering windows and walls, and destroying a large portion of his house.
James Mazgaj, 55, was asleep at the time of the accident. He is a paraplegic, stemming from a farm accident in 1985. A nurse who was in the home with Mazgaj was sitting at a table paying bills, when she saw headlights coming into the house.
“She just took off running,” said Jeff Mazgaj, James’ brother and the dairy farmer from where the milk had been picked up. “She took off as hard as she could.”
Jeff Mazgaj said the truck was carrying about 35,000 pounds of milk. It crashed through the home’s sliding glass doors, shattering the kitchen table where the nurse was sitting and stopped about 10 feet from where his brother was sleeping.
No one in the home was hurt, and the driver of the truck, Sam Smith, was able to jump out of the truck before it struck the house.
Jeff Mazgaj said it all boiled down to bad winter weather and the fact that on a dairy farm, milk has to be hauled out regularly.
“I really don’t see any negligence,” he said. “It was one of those bad calls with winter-time weather. MIlk hauling’s just like farming — you’re out there seven days a week.”
Jeff Mazgaj said there had been a bad snow storm during the night, and it was still snowing when the milk was loaded. The driver was leaving the farm when he reached a curve in the lane and “the truck took off on him.”
Mazgaj said the driver could feel the wheels break over the edge of the drive and at that point decided to jump from the cab. He was not hurt.
“It was to the point of no return right there,” Mazgaj said. “If he didn’t jump out of it he would have got killed in the truck.”
Mazgaj said the trusses of the house struck the windshield of the truck and the driver compartment was completely destroyed. The tank also tore loose from the truck, forcing the weight of the tank into the truck and house.
He did not fault the milk hauler, who, along with his father, Patrick Smith, had picked up the farm’s milk for about a year. He said they were “really good milk haulers” and hopes someone will still be available to haul his milk. He lives in an area where there are very few dairy farms, and getting someone to haul the milk can be difficult.
As for James Mazgaj, he remained hospitalized as of Feb. 7, due to some unrelated health issues. The family is working to prepare an old farm house for him to live, while his current house is being repaired.
He also operates a tractor repair and trading business out of his house, which Jeff said has been affected by the accident.
Jeff said officials were able to get the milk out of the truck with a generator. But they are still trying to figure out how to get the truck and tank out of the house, without causing further damage.