Trucker beaten, robbed after being hit with firework, flipping tanker

| 7/8/2005

The driver of a diesel tanker that wrecked when a bottle rocket was shot into his cab is recovering from seven hours of brain surgery after being beaten and mugged at the scene of the accident.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, trucker Rafael Diaz Jr. was in critical condition on Wednesday, July 6, and required seven hours of brain surgery for his injuries.A representative for Grady Memorial Hospital told Land Line that Diaz was still listed as a patient in the hospital, but was unable to give any updated information on his condition because of privacy laws.

In the early hours of Tuesday, July 5, Diaz was traveling eastbound on Donald Lee Hollowell Highway when he was hit in the head with a bottle rocket, Atlanta police told news Web site

According to media reports, eight to 11 juveniles were shooting fireworks as Diaz drove his truck through the area. One of the teens fired a bottle rocket into the cab, hitting Diaz below his left eye and shattering the bone.

The shock caused Diaz to lose control of his truck – and the 7,500 gallons of diesel in its tanker – which crossed the westbound lane of traffic, smashed a fire hydrant, hit a curb, flipped on its side and slid down an embankment into an apartment complex parking lot.

Firefighters evacuated the apartments near where the truck careened to a stop. Only about 20 gallons of fuel leaked from the truck, and a second tanker was brought in to remove the damaged rig’s payload.

After surgery, Diaz told family members that the teens hit him repeatedly in the back of the head and were demanding cash, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Atlanta police have questioned at least two teens, and had in custody an unnamed 18-year-old who “caused the incident to occur,” police spokesperson Sylvia Abernathy told the Journal-Constitution.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer