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Close call when pipe flies through Florida man's windshield

A steel pipe lodged in the windshield of Mike Zelnar's car on July 20, 2021.jpg
Posted at 7:00 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 22:00:52-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WPTV) -- A Treasure Coast man says his heart is still racing after a close call on Florida's Turnpike earlier this week.

"The roof saved us and it was literally poking just like this," said Mike Zelnar. "How close we were to death."

Zelnar was on his home to Port St. Lucie on Tuesday, heading north near Miami and driving behind a truck pulling a cement mixer.

"All of a sudden this piece fell off the mixer and bounced one time in front of me," Zelnar said. "And all of a sudden it crushed my windshield."

Mike Zelnar: 'The roof saved us'
"The roof saved us," Mike Zelnar says as he holds a piece of steel pipe that fell off a cement mixer and impaled the windshield of his car.

A solid steel pipe was launched like a missile, and with less than a second to react, shot right into his windshield.

"You're talking a piece of pipe that weighs five to seven pounds at 70 mph, hitting you in the head or in the chest, you were not going to survive it," Zelnar said.

When Zelnar sent a picture of the pipe to his wife Lynelle, her heart starting pounding.

"If he swerved to the left or right just by an inch it could have gone right into him," Lynelle Zelnar said. "I just lost my mother and to see that I thought, 'Oh, my God, thank God he's alive.'"

Zelnar said he didn't have enough time to swerve or get out of the way, and you may be surprised to learn how often crashes are caused by dangerous debris.

According to the latest study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways over a four-year period, leading to 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

Zelnar knows he is lucky, but he's now asking drivers to secure their loads to prevent something like this.

"It was scary. I've been in the military and this was probably one of the most scariest things I've ever seen," Zelnar said.

This story originally reported by Ryan Hughes on WPTV.com.