Just after 1:30 p.m., a red SUV took a left from County Road 4126 onto U.S. Highway 64, heading east, in front of an oncoming 18-wheeler, believed to be carrying an empty gravel trailer, Department of Public Safety trooper Jason Matura said.
The crash sent the 18-wheeler truck up a hill and into the front of the Canton City Hall Annex, 24980 Texas Highway 64.
The front of the 18-wheeler crashed into the city secretary’s office at the front east side of the building, causing a fire. The building is labeled a total loss.
The driver of the truck died in the crash, but no one working at city hall was injured. Trooper Andrew Faglie said the driver of the SUV was treated and released at the scene.
Chris Swonger, meter reader for the city, said he heard the squealing brakes and witnessed the crash.
“I saw the crash and knew he was going to run into the building,” he said.
Swonger said he ran into the secretary’s office, but the heat and smoke were too much and he was unable to save the man.
City Manager Lonnie Cluck, said there are eight people who office at the complex, and four were there at the time.
City Secretary Julie Seymore said she felt God was watching over her, and her heart goes out to the family of the man in the crash.
“It doesn’t even scare me looking at it,” she said. “I have always felt protected under the umbrella of God, and this is another assurance of that.”
“(We were) in a meeting with the instant management team going over the process we would go through in the event a disaster were to hit Van Zandt County and Canton and going through the forms the different delegations of legal authority we have to go through to be able to declare it an emergency and effectively litigate and respond to a catastrophic event,” Allen said.
Allen said at first they thought the call was a hoax.
“Our first inkling was someone was messing with us,” Allen said. “I came out of the courthouse and saw smoke, and I knew it was for real.”
Allen said 11 departments responded to the scene. Fire crews from Canton, South Van Zandt, Edgewood, Athens and the county fire marshal’s office responded as well as authorities from the DPS, Canton, Grand Saline, Van Zandt County Sherriff’s Office and the Van Zandt County Posse, which consists of retired law enforcement personnel.
‘This was a disaster that could have been worse if we didn’t have all these responders here with us,” he said.
As far as city operations, Cluck said the city plans to allow residents to pay water bills at the city hall’s former location, 290 East Tyler St. Offices of city officials are anticipated to remain at the Highway 64 location at a building behind the one that burned.
Though, he said the city will assess the damage this morning and regroup.
As of press time, the deceased man’s name was not released, pending notification of next of kin.