Local semi driver dies in Vilas Co. accident

Leader Reporter

A Shawano truck driver killed in crash Wednesday will be remembered as someone who would do anything to help anybody, a family member said.

Michael Kupsky, 50, W5850 County B, Shawano, died in a Vilas County semi truck accident after his tanker's cab plunged more than 30 feet into the Manitowish River, his trailer still dangling off the bridge.

Kupsky was a semi driver for Schneider National Trucking, Green Bay, and at the time of the accident was hauling an empty Morning Glory milk tank in the Manitowish Waters area.

The Vilas County Sheriff's Department said the semi was southbound on U.S. 51 about 4:40 a.m. when the truck's cab detached from its load after the vehicle struck a guard rail, slamming the vehicle across the bridge and onto the other rail.

The cab was found laying on its side in a few feet of water in the river.

According to authorities, Kupsky was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene by the Vilas County Coroner.

Heavy equipment was called in from Ashland to remove both parts of the truck.

A sheriff's department spokesman said road conditions were good at the time of the accident for wintertime driving. The bridge is located on a straight stretch of highway and there were no skidmarks except for a short patch where the driver apparently tried to correct the rig's path.

An autopsy was to be performed to help determine the cause of the accident.

The Department of Transportation said they hoped to reopen the bridge with a lane restriction sometime today.

They also said they planned to install concrete barriers on the bridge, weather permitting. State bridge engineers were to inspect the bridge and assess the damage.

After the accident authorities had concerns about the environmental impact due to leakage of some fluids from the truck.

Diesel fuel, anti-freeze, crankcase oil and battery acid leaked from the vehicle into the river, said Emergency Government Services Director Larry Miller. Up to 150 to 175 gallons of the spill leaked from the saddle fuel tanks.

The diesel fuel went no more than 1.5 miles down the river, according to Miller who quoted DNR area warden Duane Harpster.

Miller said the fuel floated to the top of the water and was being absorbed by booms. A private company was contracted to clean up the spill.

Kupsky's sister said her brother loved to do things with his hands.

"He was in the process of remodeling his great-grandfather's home," she said. "He would help anyone that would ask and he loved to do carpentry and plumbing type of work."

Susan also said Kupsky was active in the Zion Lutheran Church and helped provide rides to church for the elderly people on Sunday. He had married his wife, Mary Pludeman, in August, 1974. They had no children.

Kupsky had been a truck driver for over 25 years and had recently started driving for Schneider. He graduated from Bonduel High School in 1967, served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and was a Vietnam veteran.

By Joe Vandel
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