City police officer Zachary Lukon was on duty at Latrobe's Great American Banana Split Celebration when he noticed a food truck starting to roll down Ligonier Street.
He was able to stop the runaway vehicle, which saved the life of a man who had been trapped underneath.
"The only thing I saw was ... somebody needs to stop that truck — and I'm somebody," said Lukon, 39, of New Derry.
Lukon had just started his shift Aug. 26 and was assigned to patrol the two streets containing the majority of the festival traffic.
He was searching for the police booth when he ran into a family friend in the 900 block of Ligonier Street about 3:15 p.m.
"I probably wasn't there for maybe two minutes — the (food) truck just happened to be across the street and maybe a few feet down," Lukon said.
He said he "took off running" as soon as he noticed it moving and saw the truck's open door.
" 'There's one way in (the truck), and that's how I'm going in,' " Lukon recalled thinking.
Once inside, Lukon said there was a woman who was doing "everything that she possibly could" to stop the truck.
"I very politely said 'look out,' and I just jumped in there," Lukon said. "I grabbed the steering wheel and slammed my foot on the brake."
Lukon said by the time the truck stopped, it had crashed through one vendor tent and was headed for a second.
"As I stopped it, I mean, I just didn't move — basically a freeze moment," Lukon said.
He then called Latrobe police Chief Richard Bosco, who was nearby.
Bosco and other officers, as well as firefighters, responded quickly to the scene, Lukon said.
At that point, Lukon didn't know there was a man trapped under the truck.
"After, like, the adrenaline wore off, the anxiety kind of like kicked in," Lukon said. "What just happened?"
Lukon said a group of people helped to pull the man out from under the truck.
The man had been dragged along when his shirt got caught on a steel platform mounted on the front of the truck to carry a generator.
"I said, 'Is there anybody else under the truck?' " Lukon said. "I was sick because there was just so many people (at the festival). I didn't know, because my only goal was 'stop that truck.' "
No one else was underneath, Lukon said, and the man who was trapped was checked by paramedics.
He declined to release the man's identity, citing an ongoing investigation.
After the man was rescued, Lukon said, his main concern became the propane tanks in the rear of the truck, whose lines were "all stretched out" because of the incident.
Those on the scene asked Lukon if he could reverse the truck so the lines wouldn't be so stretched.
"I'm like, 'Nobody's moving anything,' " Lukon said. " 'We don't even know what's going on with this right now.' "
He asked for wood to prop the wheels and stabilize the vehicle.
"That's a long story for about 10 to 15 seconds of a situation," Lukon said. "I mean, it really was — it was super fast."
He said there was "little time" to react to what was happening.
"In this profession, unfortunately, we don't get a whole lot of time to think about things," he said.
Police believe the truck slipped out of gear, causing it to roll about 15-20 feet.
The actions he took in stopping the truck earned Lukon a proclamation for his bravery from the Westmoreland County Commissioners and recognition from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which Rep. Leslie Rossi (R- Unity) presented during a recent Latrobe council meeting.
"It was just one of those things — right place, right time," Lukon said.
Bosco said if it wasn't for Lukon, the truck could have crashed into four more tents and a "huge stage" with lots of people in its path.
"I commend Officer Lukon on his training and experience," Bosco said. "He definitely saved that one gentleman's life and probably spared several others from very serious bodily injury."
"We believe in miracles," Bosco said, "and this was the miracle on Ligonier Street."
Megan Swift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1204, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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