By Kaylee Lindenmuth
DARKWATER - A Hazleton man is dead after his motorcycle struck two tri-axle dump trucks on Route 61 near Darkwater Road in New Castle Township Thursday morning.
According to State Police at Frackville, Rafael Mateo, 29, of Hazleton was pronounced dead at the scene, and was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
Troopers say, just before 8:00am, two tri-axle Mack dump trucks were travelling southbound in the right turning lane, preparing to turn onto Darkwater road, and began to slow for the turn. A Walmart tractor-trailer and a white Jeep followed behind in the same lane. As the Walmart truck approached the trucks ahead, the driver moved into the left hand lane to pass.
Mateo traveled southbound in the left-hand lane on a 2007 Suzuki GSXR750, approaching the slower traffic at a high rate of speed, according to state police. As he approached and passed the Jeep, he moved into the right hand lane to pass the Walmart truck.
As Mateo approached the Walmart truck and the dump truck it was passing, he attempted to pass between the two along the dashed center line, to "thread the needle," as state police said.
Mateo struck the left rear of the dump truck, and the bike tumbled down the center line between it and the Walmart truck, continuing to tumble before it struck the other tri-axle, finally coming to a rest across both lanes, on its left side.
The bike was destroyed and was towed from the scene, and was reported stolen from Virginia, State Police added, and Mateo did not have a valid license.
Both dump trucks were minimally damaged, and their drivers uninjured.
The Alert and West End Fire Companies of Saint Clair assisted at the scene, while the Altamont Fire Company, West Mahanoy Township, directed traffic at Schuylkill Mall Road a few miles north of the scene.