ITD foreman recovering after being struck by vehicle

Claylon Perkins is a “first-responder.” And a survivor.

The Pocatello maintenance foreman joined Idaho State Police officers Saturday morning to help clear a vehicle crash on Interstate 15, near Exit 67 when he became a victim of the icy conditions.

Perkins, 55, stepped from his 2009 GMC Sierra pickup truck to assist ISP officers after a single-vehicle crash on the slick freeway shortly after 8 a.m. Moments later, a driver traveling at “freeway” speeds also lost control on the slick highway and crashed into the back of Perkins’ truck.

That secondary crash thrust the ITD vehicle forward, striking the 14-year ITD veteran and sending him over the guardrail.

By good fortune or divine intervention, said District 5 Engineer Ed Bala, Perkins survived with only minor injuries – no broken bones, but significant damage to three ligaments in his left knee, and possibly his left shoulder. The outcome could have been much worse, perhaps fatal, if the crash hadn’t happened where it did, Bala explained.

Nearby, the interstate crosses a local highway about 40 feet below. Or, Perkins easily could have been pinned between a vehicle and the guardrail, Bala said.

A “substantial” storm hit the Pocatello area Friday night, and though the freeway was cleared of snow, a few icy patches remained. The driver of a vehicle lost control, hit the guardrail and came to rest facing the opposite direction. With one lane of the interstate blocked, Perkins was directing traffic when he was struck.

He was taken by ambulance to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello. Surgeons repaired one of the badly damaged ligaments this week and were preparing to release him for recovery at home. They are not sure yet whether additional surgery will be required.

“It was really moving for me to see all of the visitors in black ISP uniforms and orange ITD shirts at the hospital,” Bala said. Perkins greeted a host of visitors during recuperation this week – visitors who seemed like family, Bala said.

If recovery goes well and no additional surgery is necessary, the maintenance foreman could return to work this spring. When he arrives, he likely will find a new companion – a replacement for his ITD pickup truck.

Steve Spoor and Bob Williams from ITD Headquarters in Boise, and D-5 shop superintendent Tony Warth have been working diligently to secure a new truck for the injured Perkins.

Published 3-4-2011