SEYMOUR, Ind. — Indiana State Police say a 17-year-old runaway from Ohio is lucky to be alive after hitching a ride on the outside of a semi for more than 50 miles through southern Indiana.
State Police Motor Carrier Inspector Mike Buckly was the first to spot the teen while working at the ISP/INDOT weigh station on I-65 near Seymour, according to WXIN.
“We were just running trucks through like we do every day just weighing them,” Buckly said. “And I happened to catch a face coming out behind one of the trucks on the tractor.”
As shocking as it was, Buckly says there was no doubt about what he was seeing.
“Oh, it was very obvious there was a person sitting back there,” he said.
Buckly says the teen was crouched down on the catwalk platform between the cab and trailer of the truck. When the teen realized he had been spotted, Buckly says he slipped and fell off the truck, which had stopped to be weighed at the station.
So, Buckly called an ISP Trooper stationed by the ramp that leads back to I-65.
“He chased the truck down the ramp, got the truck stopped at the end of the ramp, and the kid was gone,” Buckly said. “So we started searching the truck, and he had actually climbed under the truck.”
When they found the teen, Buckly says he was covered in diesel fuel and grime. He was only wearing a hooded sweatshirt on a morning when temperatures were dropping in the low 40's.
“65 miles an hour, that’s pretty scary,” Buckly said.
“The driver had no clue he was even back there,” Buckly continued. “He was very shocked. He was very scared, thinking the kid could have fell off.”
The teen told police he had run away from Shelby, Ohio and made his way with a friend to Louisville, Kentucky.
His friend got a ride back to Ohio, but he was left behind. So, he said he hopped on the back of the semi at a truck stop in Louisville without knowing the driver’s destination.
He rode on the outside of the truck through southern Indiana before Buckly spotted him at the weigh station in Seymour.
“He was very lucky he didn’t fall off between Kentucky and here,” Buckly said. “I’ve heard stories of people hitching rides on trains, but never semis.”
"Anything could have happened," one unidentified trucker told WXIN. "He could have fallen off and gone up under the trailer, it could have been real bad."
State Police say the teen was taken to the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center as authorities reached out to his family in Ohio. The driver of the semi will not face any charges.