Wellersburg church struck by runaway truck

November 20, 2018

It seems almost preordained for the Mt. Harmony United Methodist Church in Wellersburg to be struck by tractor-trailers. Less than two years after it was mostly destroyed by one runaway truck, the church was hit by yet another on Monday morning, taking with it remnants that the congregation hoped to keep for its new church that will be built farther away from the road.

“It was very upsetting. We knew it was coming down,” said Ethel Stevanus, associate pastor of the church. “But to see it completely down is sad. We wanted to save some of the windows and stained glass. We were going to make some crosses out of them. We also kept them in so there wasn’t more moisture in that building. That truck . . . we couldn’t save any of them. The trailer that was beside the church that stored the piano was tilted sideways. They had to move the trailer. When they did that, the back of the church’s roof fell down. There are no windows we could save though.”

No one was injured in the accident, which happened at 12:42 a.m., according to Somerset County Control. Fire departments from Wellersburg and Meyersdale, along with the Pennsylvania State Police and EMS from Allegany County, Maryland, responded. A police report was not available late Monday.

The church was the site of a similar accident nearly two years ago. On April 4, 2017, a tractor-trailer driver lost control while rounding a curve on Route 160 and tore a hole in the side of the church. Those weren’t the only times there has been trouble on that road. One truck rolled over into the woods and, more recently, two people were seriously injured when commercial vehicles collided.

In the past four years, there have been more than 10 major accidents on Route 160 in Wellersburg. After the accident on April 4, 2017, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials began a study to alleviate the problem.

In October, New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. began safety improvements on Route 160 in Southampton Township and Wellersburg Borough. The contractor will install long-term traffic control signage, install erosion and sedimentation controls and begin excavation work in preparation for work on the extension of a truck pull-off area.

The overall project will include the installation of flashing beacons on four school-bus-ahead signs, larger 35 mph signs, sign upgrades from the Maryland state line to White Oak Hollow Road, the installation of two dynamic message boards to warn truck drivers to slow down, and the installation of flashing beacons on three existing truck pull-off ahead signs. The truck pull-off itself will be extended by 325 feet at the top of the mountain, according to PennDOT.

All work on this $1.2 million project is expected to be completed by October.

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