Claim: A runaway truck careering down a steep hill turns off onto an emergency exit ramp, only to run a over a picnicking family who had mistaken the safety ramp for a rest stop.
Example: [Brunvand, 1993]
A semi-trailer driver — a truckie — was taking loads between Melbourne and Adelaide. Just outside Adelaide the highway descends a range of hills, including a notorious hairpin bend called "The Devil's Elbow."
Scattered all through this part of the hills are short uphill safety ramps where a truck with failed brakes can
roll in for an emergency stop.
One day a truckie was just approaching Eagle on the Hill, a couple of miles above The Devil's Elbow, when he lost his brakes. It's a busy road, and he had a full load on board. Unable to slow down, he careered along, flashing his lights and blaring the horn, swerving all over the road as he wrestled with the truck.
Miraculously, he kept on the road, and cars cleared out of his way. If he could keep the truck upright and get around The Devil's Elbow, there was a safety ramp a few hundred yards beyond.
By a miracle, he made it around the bend without rolling over, and turned the speeding truck off onto the safety ramp.
There, halfway up, was a family having a picnic.
Origins: The age and origins of this legend are unknown, but it has analogs in similar stories wherein tragedies are narrowly averted, only to followed by even larger catastrophes.
Last updated: 14 April 2011
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-31208-9 (p. 232).
Also told in:
The Big Book of Urban Legends. New York: Paradox Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56389-165-4 (p. 92).