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Wheelchair user taken on wild 50-mph ride

A man was taken on a wild ride when his wheelchair became lodged in the grille of a semitrailer and was accidentally pushed down a highway for four miles at about 50 mph, authorities said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ben Carpenter got the ride of a lifetime when his electric wheelchair became lodged in the grille of a semitrailer and was accidentally pushed down a highway for several miles at about 50 mph.

His father, Donald Carpenter, was incredulous when police called to tell him his 21-year-old son was OK after the wild ride.

"I said, 'What happened?'" Donald Carpenter recalled Thursday.

He said his son had started to cross Wednesday afternoon at an intersection in Paw Paw, about 140 miles west of Detroit, where the truck had stopped for a red light. The light changed to green while Carpenter was still in front of the semi, which started moving forward.

The truck bumped into the side of the wheelchair, which then started turning forward, its handles becoming lodged in the grille, the father said. The wild ride had started.

"He's so low that the truck driver couldn't see him, and the truck headed out," he said.

The wheelchair, with Carpenter strapped in it, ended up being pushed by the truck as it sped down the Red Arrow Highway. Police said the wheelchair was pushed about four miles, but Donald Carpenter said it was about half that.

Ben Carpenter said while all of this was going on, he seriously considered the possibility that he might not make it before the truck came to a complete halt.

"I was probably thinking that this is going to keep going and not stop anywhere, 50 or 60 miles somewhere," he told Grand Rapids television station WOOD.

"It was pretty scary," he told WDIV-TV of Detroit.

The bizarre sight caught the attention of motorists, many of whom called 911 on their cell phones. A pair of undercover police officers who happened to be driving in the opposite direction at the time saw what was happening, did a quick U-turn, followed the truck to its business and informed the disbelieving driver, Donald Carpenter said.

‘Not a scratch’
His son escaped injury.

"He's fine," Donald Carpenter said. "Not a scratch. He was basically just scared."

Ben Carpenter, who has muscular dystrophy, lives with his parents in nearby Kalamazoo. He had gone to Paw Paw to ride on a trail with a medical aide who was on a bicycle, his father said.

The aide had fallen slightly behind Carpenter by the time he was crossing the intersection and, because of the angle, didn't see him being pushed down the road. She had no idea what had happened to him.

"She was frantic and then a driver at the intersection started honking his horn and said he's attached to the front of the truck," Donald Carpenter said. The aide then used her cell phone to call for help.

The father said being pushed down the road by the truck burned most of the rubber off the tires of the wheelchair, but otherwise didn't damage it. The tires were replaced Thursday morning, in time for his son to use the wheelchair this weekend at a muscular dystrophy camp.

"It's a very bad story that ended very well," he said. "We're just thrilled that he's still around."