Huge Metal Road Sign Falls and Crushes Car in Freak Accident, Injures Woman Inside

By Mimi Nguyen-ly

Road authorities will investigate a freak incident which saw an overhead freeway sign topple onto a car, crushing it and injuring the driver inside.

Miraculously, the driver survived the terrifying crash relatively unscathed. She was driving on the Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne, Australia, during the evening peak hour traffic on Jan. 8 when the sign fell onto her car.

Dramatic dashcam footage captured the moment when the huge metal sign hit and crushed the dark blue SUV, shattering its windscreen.

Nella Lettieri, 53, was on her way to pick up her daughter at Essendon airport and was on an exit ramp when her vehicle was crushed.

“It was like a roller door had come down in front of me,” Lettieri told 9 News after being released from the hospital.

“I’d done to swerve to the side and it just kept falling,” she said. She added that although she had pushed heavily on the brakes, she could still feel the force of the sign moving the car.

“Something hit me on the head, I’d gone to put my hand up to stop it but it was so heavy,” she recalled.

The metal sign measuring 5 metres (16.4 feet) by 4 metres (13.1 feet) was part welded and bolted to the overhead barrier when it fell.

She told 9 News that she tried to leave the car through the window on the driver’s side but the car was too deformed by then.

“All of sudden, two men opened the passenger door and told me I had to get out.”

Lettieri said she may consider legal action but will wait until her body has fully recovered. She told 9 News she is suffering from recurring headaches, chest pain, and bruising on her arms and feet.

According to local reports, a crane was used to remove the fallen sign and the road was reopened late Jan. 8 with authorities deeming the freeway safe.

No other cars were hit in the incident.

‘Extremely Rare’ Event

Major Road Projects Authority Delivery Director Graeme Chambers said wind had not been a factor, according to the Melbourne Age.

“It is an extremely rare event. We last night mobilised our engineers as soon as we learnt of the incident,” he told The Age on Jan. 9.

The support structure that held the sign to the gantry had also fallen onto the car, and Chambers commented that the fault was at the connection with the overhead gantry.

“Clearly something has gone very wrong,” Chambers said. “The gantry would have been designed by an engineer, proof-engineered, independently reviewed and quality certified so we are going through all that documentation as part of the investigation.”

He added that the metal bolts and welding that secured the sign onto the gantry would need to be inspected.

Acting Victorian Premier Tim Pallas said that the state will cover the damages, according to 9 News.

VicRoads removed one sign as a precaution after all other signs on the Tullamarine freeway were inspected following the incident.

VicRoads Deputy Chief Executive Robyn Seymour said the road had been upgraded by the Major Road Projects Authority and Transurban but it was handed back to VicRoads management about 12 months ago, according to The Age.

She added that she did not know of any similar incidents.

“Given it is a brand new road there is a lot of work that Transurban, MRPA and ourselves need to do to really understand what happened,” she said.

Seymour added that VicRoads will be ensuring that safety measures, which it sets for all road infrastructure across the state, are met.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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