Seven people were killed Wednesday night in upstate New York after a truck trailer came unhooked from the truck and crashed into a minivan. Carino Vanorden, twenty-four, was driving the minivan with his fiancé, her cousin, another adult, and four young children inside. Vanorden was driving down a rural, two-lane road in Truxton, New York when a trailer hauling crushed cars broke free from the truck that it was hooked to and slammed into the minivan. Kate Vanorden, Carino’s mother, stated that her son had no time to avoid the devastating impact. Among those killed in the accident were Vanorden, his fiancé, her cousin, and the four young children, all under the age of eight. The father of two of the children, Shawn Mead, was transported to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse and was released Friday.
Friday, the sheriff’s office reported that investigators determined the cause of the crash was mechanical failure. The part that was intended to lock the coupling between the tractor and trailer and keep them securely together failed, but investigators say it is not clear at this time what caused the failure. Typically, trailers are attached to tractors by a “fifth wheel.” An automatic locking device secures a pin on the trailer that fits into the center of a large horseshoe-shaped piece of metal.
Most truck crashes are attributed to driver error and even in cases of mechanical failure, runaway trailers are very rare. According to data provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, between 2007-2011 only one in one-thousand fatal truck crashes involved the truck’s couplings, chains or hitches. According to Ted Scott, the director of engineering for the American Trucking Association, the automatic locking device setup has proved safe and requires a manual release. He stated that it is a quite rare for the fifth wheel to come loose – “It is possible that with an old, not properly maintained fifth wheel that the device can get loose, the sides can wear away, the hole that the pin fits into is no longer snug and rigid. And at that point it can come loose, but that’s a rarity.”
Equipment failure caused NY crash that killed 7, www.miamiherald.com May 28, 2013
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