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Truck loses tire, deadly New Hampshire truck accident

Written by Steve Gursten Posted October 16th, 2013

A woman was left dead after a wheel disengaged a tractor trailer before striking two cars on the highway

truck losing tire

I recently came across a very sad story about a fatal truck accident in the Concord Monitor, “Report: Truck, trailer in I-93 crash violated safety codes.” The New Hampshire truck accident occurred when a wheel became detached from a semi-truck, owned and operated by Crawford Homes, as the trucker was driving on the highway.

The detached wheel crossed the median and struck an oncoming police cruiser. The wheel ricocheted off of the police car, came back across the median and struck a second car. The police officer was not injured, but tragically, the driver of the second vehicle was killed instantly.

This is a terrible story. But it is not an uncommon one.

What makes the story of this truck accident  even more troubling is the fact that this crash  – like many other crashes involving semis and tractor trailers with tire issues – was entirely preventable.

Following an inspection at the scene of the  crash, police investigators concluded that the semi-truck involved in the accident should not have been on the road to start.

In addition, the truck driver  did not immediately stop after losing his tire.   According to sources, investigators believe that he did not even know the wheel had even disengaged.

The truck and the driver were tracked down after the fatal accident at a rest stop in Maine, where the inspection was conducted.

The report revealed:

  • The truck’s brakes were inadequate for safe stopping.
  • The brakes were contaminated by grease and oil, reducing their effectiveness.
  • The brake hose was badly damaged and deteriorated resulting from chaffing against another part of the truck.
  • The service brake was not properly functioning.

In total, there were six serious truck safety violations revealed during the initial police inspection. It is also noteworthy that even one of these safety violations  would automatically have put this semi-truck out of service under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

Beyond the violations, the police inspection also revealed that the remaining wheels on the trailer had improper breakaway and emergency braking. The entire brake mechanism on the wheel that killed the innocent motorist flew off the tractor trailer at the time of the fatal crash.

And while this was the only truck accident death attributed to the Maine-based trucking company Crawford Homes within the past two years, there had also been  11 roadside inspections in the same time span in which Crawford Homes  trucks had been placed out of service eight times.

This is especially outrageous. It means that in approximately 72% of the roadside safety inspections of Crawford Homes’ trucks, their tractor-trailers were found to be so dangerous to public safety that they were immediately put out of service. Eight times in two years.

Many people may wonder how this company was even still operating.  As a truck accident attorney, and as part of the Truck Roundtable that has together litigated more than six hundred truck accident cases to settlement or verdict,  I’ve seen the consequences of what happens afterward, when dangerous and poorly maintained big-rig trucks are quite predictably involved in accidents.

This is a company that did not care about safety.  There was a pattern and practice of having company trucks poorly maintained. And despite the fact that 72% of their roadside inspections resulted in an immediate out of service order, this company went on conducting business until  it cost an innocent person her life.

The New Hampshire State Police, who responded to this tragic crash, will inspect the truck again over the coming weeks. The safety investigators will piece together how this trucking company allowed a wheel to fly off of its truck in the middle of traffic and cause this terrible innocent fatality.

Related information:

FMSCA tire requirements for truck companies

Inspection and maintenance tips for trucking companies

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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