Trailer in accident had defective rim, inspection overdue
Durango man died when wheel crashed through windshield
Herald Staff Writer
The driver who pulled the trailer will be cited with operating unsafe equipment and failing to pre-inspect the flatbed, said Officer Justin Tucker, with the Motor Transportation Police, in a phone interview Tuesday.
The company that owned the flatbed, Moberg Welding, will be cited with failing to inspect the trailer annually as required by law, Tucker said.
The citations are not criminal in nature; rather they go against a driver's or company's safety score and could affect insurance rates, he said.
The crash occurred about 1 p.m. March 13 on U.S. Highway 550, about six miles north of Aztec.
Ron Newton, 44, an employee of Brainstorm Internet, was killed when a wheel came crashing through the windshield.
Newman was the passenger in a BMW sport utility vehicle being driven by Phil Bryson, owner of Brainstorm Internet in Durango.
As Bryson and Newton traveled northbound, a southbound truck lost two left tires off its trailer. One tire jumped a concrete lane divider and went through the windshield of the BMW, striking Newton.
Bryson was largely uninjured in the crash, although he suffered a few facial lacerations from the broken windshield.
Tucker, who inspected the trailer after the crash, said the stud holes on the tire rim were elongated, and the trailer had not been formally inspected since 2005 - four years overdue.
"A good rim will have perfect circular stud holes," Tucker said. "On this particular rim, there were about two stud holes that were elongated - they were more oval. The oval part where it had been worn was rusted over, so it had been like that for a while."
Other stud holes on the rim were elongated, too, but they were not rusted out, indicating they warped when the wheels came off.
A proper annual inspection would have revealed the elongated stud holes, Taylor said.
"If you looked close enough, I guarantee you could have seen the elongation happening behind the actual lug nut - if there was even a lug nut there, because we didn't find any of the lug nuts," he said.
The driver of the truck, Ronnie Jacquez, 34, of Bloomfield, N.M., told authorities he did a pre-inspection of the trailer, and the only thing he noticed was a couple of loose boards on the trailer deck, Taylor said.
"He could have maybe overlooked the rim itself, but he should have been able to see the wear on the rim itself."
The trailer was 30 feet long with eight wheels, two tires apiece under the four wheel hubs. A John Deere backhoe was on top of the flatbed at the time of the accident.
In a brief interview Tuesday, an employee with Moberg Welding disputed that the trailer hasn't been formally inspected since 2005. He declined to comment further.
It is not uncommon for tires to fall off trailers when the rims have developed elongated holes, Taylor said.
He added: "This particular accident that happened on March 13 though, it was a freak accident. ... The tire actually bouncing over the median and directly into a windshield like that - that is not very common."