KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Fire crews and police are on scene of a semi-truck crash also involving a pickup truck hauling a camper trailer that left one person dead.
Garry Bixler, 67, of Shelbyville (pictured above) was driving the pickup that was hauling the camper. He told 24 Hour News 8 that he was headed home after a weekend visiting his brother near the Indiana border.
Bixler was driving in the right lane of US-131 just past West Main Street (M-43) in Kalamazoo, when he saw the semi-truck. It was off the road on the right shoulder.
The semi-truck did not use a turn signal when it tried to re-enter traffic on the highway, witnesses told police. Bixler said it crossed both lanes.
"He just kept coming over and when I seen he was coming over here, I just hit my brakes and turned my wheels and slid it sideways," said Bixler. "I didn't have much time to think. All I could do is just cram my wheels and let it slide sideways."
The slide soon became a roll. The pickup landed on its roof.
That's when the crash happened.
The semi's cab caught fire and was fully engulfed when emergency personnel arrived. The driver -- identified as 64-year-old Rajinder Singh Aulakh of Ontario, Canada -- died on-scene.
Bixler only has a minor seat belt burn and a few bruises, even though his pickup truck landed upside down with his camper trailer on top.
"That's all I got, and a little bruise right there, which is nothing," said Bixler. He said he's lucky to be alive.
Bixler said he's grateful to the good Samaritan who stopped and helped him unbuckle his seat belt and get out of the overturned truck -- but he said he can't remember that man's name.
Authorities said it appears Aulakh crossed lanes to get to the Emergency Vehicle Only turnaround.
"He may have been trying to use the turnaround to get up back toward the other highway," said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller.
The semi-truck, which had a Canadian license plate, was carrying about half a load of steel.
The crash shut down one lane of northbound US-131 near M-43 in Kalamazoo for hours. It finally reopened around 6:45 p.m.
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A sheriff's deputy car and a Michigan State Police SUV were among the damaged vehicles.