A Reading man was killed after his car collided with a tractor trailer during the height of the morning rush Tuesday.
The crash was the first of three accidents that snarled traffic along a busy stretch of Route 222 in Berks County.
Police believe Leon Gibbs Jr. nodded off behind the wheel moments before his car struck the tractor trailer just north of Route 73 in Maidencreek Township.
"He was unconscious and to see him helpless is crazy," said Amber Brumbach, who rushed to the driver's side to try and help.
It's an image Brumbach said she will never be able to erase. Gibbs' Buick Century was crushed and mangled. The accident happened around 6:10 a.m. Tuesday. Brumbach and her co-worker, Melanie Forrest, saw the commotion and ran over.
"The car was so compact that he was stuck, like you couldn't see from the knee down," recalled Forrest.
Gibbs, 50, was driving home after working third shift near Allentown. He fell asleep at the wheel and hit the side of a northbound tractor trailer in front of a Dunkin Donuts, police said.
"Witnesses in front and witnesses behind said he was weaving in and out of his lane," said Ofc. Charles Hobart, Northern Berks Regional Police Dept.
Gibbs was heading south on Route 222, just north of Route 73, when he crossed over the center line, said police. His car spun out, and witnesses said a nurse ran over to help stop the bleeding before the jaws of life pulled him out.
"He had a wedding band on his finger. She just kept saying, 'People love you. We're here for you. We're gonna help you,' but he was unconscious," said Brumbach.
Gibbs was rushed to the trauma center at Reading Hospital, where he died of his injuries about an hour later, the coroner said.
Police described Gibbs as a hard-working man who had more than one job.
The truck driver was not hurt.
Seven hours after the fatal crash, police were called to investigate another accident in which they said one vehicle rear-ended another at the same location.
While police were on the scene, a woman driving by became distracted and caused a chain-reaction crash involving two other vehicles. No one was injured in either accident, police said.
Some locals said that stretch of highway is a death trap, and something needs to be done.
"We get crashes there innumerable. I would say about four crashes a week," said Hobart.