Salem police have received no shortage of calls regarding damage to fences and utility poles over the last two days, but until Tuesday afternoon, most of them were the result of Hurricane Sandy.
Then the sneeze call came in.
On Tuesday, just before 2:30 p.m., police responded to a report of a motor vehicle accident on Jefferson Avenue in the area of Adams Street. On arrival, a Ford F350 was observed to have struck a utility pole on the wrong side of the road, causing the rear end of the truck to shift to the left and, crashing through a chain-link fence and off an embankment where it came to a rest, according to an entry in the police department's activity log.
A witness who had been driving inbound on Jefferson Avenue behind the truck, toward the St. Anne's Church, told police that the truck was travelling at normal speeds prior to the accident. She stated, according to the report, that the driver in front of her suddenly swerved into the oncoming lane, travelling in it for a short distance, before hitting the pole.
Police spoke to the driver of the truck, who told officers that he had sneezed a few times, "and the next thing he knew he had struck the pole."
The driver told police that in the past he has had an issue with passing out due to what he called "cough related syncope," but that it has never occurred before while driving. He said it happens on occasion if he coughs or sneezes too many times in a row.
According to the police log, an immediate threat form will be filed with the Registry of Motor Vehicles based on the driver's statements.
Verizon arrived on scene prior to police departure to replace the utility pole, and the fence was temporarily repaired by the Department of Public Works.
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.