Multi-vehicle major accident triggered by loose trailer wheel
by Steve W Stewart
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Witnesses say a multi-vehicle major accident in north Jasper County on Tuesday afternoon was the result of a trailer tire that came loose, and local law enforcement is trying to find the driver of the truck that was pulling the trailer.
The accident occurred at about 1:30 on Highway 96, appr
oximately one mile north of Recreational Road 255.
A Brookeland woman and her daughter were injured in the crash, while an elderly couple from Hemphill escaped with only scratches from their overturned truck.
According to witness Tammy Marshall of Port Arthur, a large, gold color Dodge pickup truck was traveling southbound and towing a trailer with some type of heavy equipment on the back. Marshall said a wheel and tire came off of the trailer, it first bounced off of an 18-wheeler, and then collided head-on with with a northbound pickup truck, which caused it to crash into another truck.
40-year-old Wendy Smith of Hemphill was driving the northbound
After the impact, Smith's pickup veered left into a southbound 2004 GMC pickup truck, driven by 75-year-old Alvin Zaruba of Hemphill. A fraction of a second is all that kept the two trucks from colliding head-on.
Zaruba's truck slid off of the highway and overturned, coming to rest against pine trees. The Lake Rayburn and Jasper Fire Departments had to use the Jaws of Life to cut Zaruba and his wife, Yvonne, from their overturned truck.
The driver of the 18-wheeler that was struck by the tire, Delbert Whittemore of Buna, said he heard and felt the tire hit his truck, and he looked into his rear-view mirror and saw the other vehicles colliding behind him.
Trooper Lester McCray of the Texas Department of Publ
ic Safety investigated the accident.
Kevin Smith comforts his injured 14-year-old daughter Shelby Smith. Shelby and her mother, Wendy Smith, were struck head-on by the runaway tire. Photo by Steve W Stewart.