Driver impaled in accident at Zoo Boulevard, I-235

A metal fencing pole pierced the chest of a driver whose SUV left the road and crashed early Wednesday at Zoo Boulevard and I-235, a sheriff’s official said.

The motorist remained in critical condition after being taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis with part of the fence pole still in his upper chest, sheriff’s Lt. David Mattingly said.

He identified the injured man as Robert Nickelson, 31, of Clearwater.

Two witnesses saw or heard the crash and called 911, or the SUV might not have been noticed for some time because the sidewalk where the vehicle ended up runs under Zoo Boulevard and is partly hidden, Mattingly said. The witnesses ran to the man’s aid, and the rescue effort was complicated partly because the man was trapped, he said.

Mattingly gave this account: About 12:05 a.m. Wednesday, the blue 2003 Chevy Tahoe was going northwest on Zoo at the I-235 interchange. The Tahoe went off the northeast side of the road and hit several metal poles and dropped 15 feet to a sidewalk.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause.