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The ‘Banana Truck’ Crash: 50 Years Later

SCRANTON — It was a horrific wreck many people still remember, one that inspired a Harry Chapin song.
Credit: WNEP

SCRANTON, Pa. — SCRANTON -- It was a horrific wreck many people still remember, one that inspired a Harry Chapin song.

On March 18, 1965 Gene Sesky of Scranton lost control of the truck he was driving, hauling 30,000 pounds of bananas, barreling down Moosic Street toward central Scranton, unable to stop.

Family members said the clutch failed.

"He chose not to jump out of that truck. And he was on the fuel tank of the truck with the door open, blowing the air horn, steering the truck with the other hand, yelling for people to get out of the way," said Gene's son, Gene Sesky.

Bill Shoemaker was on Moosic Street that day with his wife, 1-month-old daughter, brother, and sister-in-law in his car.

He drove onto the curb when he saw the truck coming, got clipped and woke up in the hospital with almost a hundred stitches in his head.

His family was safe.

"I say how lucky I was that I was 22 years old and able to grab that wheel and turn it and jump the curb and get up part way on the sidewalk or I definitely wouldn't be here," said Shoemaker.

Witnesses said Sesky hit speeds of more than 100 miles per hour before he crashed at the corner of South Irving Avenue and Moosic Street. He was killed instantly.

"I remember him behind that wheel. It was a horrible sight and he was the true hero. Sesky did everything he could to avoid everyone and it was just wonderful that he was able to," said Shoemaker.

Sesky was 33 years old when he died, leaving behind a wife, his 10-year-old son, and two young daughters.

Gene Sesky grew up to become a truck driver like his dad. He keeps the watch his father was wearing when he died.

He said it stopped the moment his dad died, frozen in time.

"Nobody got killed that day except my dad, so when he got that truck and maneuvered it around while it was still on fire, he saved over a hundred people's lives that day. He's a hero," said Sesky.

Sesky said he has been approached by movie producers wanting to make a feature film out of his father's story.

He said ultimately his family decided against it, saying it would be too painful to relive.