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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 1, 2011

Pickup truck sucked under

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

The driver of a pickup truck died in floodwaters on Monday after he crossed barriers on a washed-out section of Route 5S in the town of Glen in Montgomery County.

Stephen Terleckey, 72, from Amsterdam, drowned in his truck, according to State Police

He had local connections as his wife, Karen, was raised in Altamont. The couple met square dancing at what used to be Pat’s Ranch on Gun Club Road just outside the village. (See related obituary.)

Mr. Terleckey was a hard-working farmer with 125 acres in Montgomery County. He and his wife ran Karen’s Produce and Ice Cream, a popular community gathering spot.

The floodwaters from tropical storm Irene that drowned Mr. Terleckey in his truck also wreaked havoc with his farm, said Mrs. Terleckey. “We were devastated,” she said yesterday. “We can’t even get through the closed roads to work on cleanup.”

Mrs. Terleckey said her daughter has been using a footpath to walk to the family business to get memorabilia for the funeral on Saturday.

“I’m glad he’s not here to see it,” said Mrs. Terleckey. “He was such a hardworking man. All of it is destroyed.”

Trooper Maureen Tuffey, spokeswoman for Troop G with the State Police, described unfolding events on Aug. 29 this way: Inspectors and workers on the Thruway bridge shortly after 9 a.m. saw a maroon Ford 150 pickup truck below them cross barriers blocking off a flooded section of Route 5S.

“They saw him drive around the barriers and into the water, like he could paddle…like he was formidable and could tackle anything,” said Tuffey. “They were just shocked by what they saw.”

They were also helpless.

Tuffey went on, “The waters were raging. It was the next day after the hurricane. The truck was brought to a screeching halt. It immediately disabled the engine, all that water. Then it turned it over right on its side and, before their eyes, he vanished.”

Tuffey acknowledged it was hard to understand how a truck could disappear like that.  “The creeks were turned into rivers,” she said. “It made the truck look like it was a toy. There was nothing they could do,” she said of saving the driver. “It was a matter of seconds, and he was gone from sight.”

She went on, “If you didn’t see what was going on the last couple of days, if you didn’t stand there and watch the waters,” you couldn’t understand it. “It took that pickup truck like it was a toy, turned it over on its side, and sucked it into the river.”

It wasn’t until the waters subsided hours later that the maroon pickup was spotted. It was seen that evening just about 100 yards downstream from where the inspectors on the bridge had watched it disappear, said Tuffey.

The State Police in Fonda and a diver from the Village of Fultonville Rescue Squad pulled the truck from the Schoharie Creek.  Mr. Terleckey’s body was inside the cab.

“It’s just very sad,” Tuffey said. “You put up barriers. He chose to disregard them.”

Tuffey said that she had learned Terleckey was very dedicated to his work. “No one should be that dedicated,” she concluded.

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