Introduction: Cullman Crash Causes & The Story so Far
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are investigating. The crash occurred about 5:13 a.m. Friday on Interstate 65 near the Cullman exit, according to state troopers.
The driver of a tractor trailer rig was injured in the crash and was taken to UAB Hospital, as were two other drivers involved in the crash, said Scott White, chief trooper for Alabama State Troopers District 6. At least three vehicles were damaged and blocking both lanes of traffic before the wreck could be cleared about 12:30 p.m., according to the Alabama Department of Transportation website.
The truck driver was in critical condition, White said.
“All those involved are being evaluated at the hospital,” he said. “We don’t have a lot to go on at this point.”
The Big Picture
The National Transportation Safety Board says it does not know the cause of a tractor-trailer accident on Interstate 65 in Cullman County that left a flatbed truck and trailer in pieces. The driver of the tractor-trailer survived. At around 2:30pm Friday, northbound traffic on I-65 was blocked as a result of the wreck. Trucks and cars slowed to a halt as they approached the crash site, where at least one vehicle appeared to have been crushed beneath the fallen metal. Several vehicles stopped on the soft shoulder, waiting for a chance to pass the scene. The northbound lane of I-65 was closed in both directions while investigators looked into just what happened. Twelve hours after the accident, northbound traffic on Interstate 65 was backed up for at least 2 miles as cars waited to pass the crash site.
The driver of the tractor-trailer is identified as 28 year old Brian Wooldridge of Rockford, Illinois. He was not seriously injured. A passenger in the car crushed by the fallen trailer was identified as 40 year old Victoria Smalley of Mentor, Ohio. She died in the crash.
What Happened in the Cullman Accident?
It’s not clear how the accident occurred. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said the crash involved a tractor-trailer, which veered off the road after it passed over an oil plug that had been improperly installed in the road. It then struck a van and trailer, which also veered from their lanes after striking the plug. The tractor-trailer flipped over and the trailer separated from the tractor-trailer. The trailer was loaded with refrigerated chicken. At least four people were killed and 11 injured in the crash. Routine maintenance work was being done on the road, and the company responsible for maintaining it had been warned repeatedly about the oil plugs in that section of highway. The plugs had been placed in a very dangerous position, before warning signs that the road was under repairs.
More information: http://articles.cnn. com/2013-08-02/us/al.fatal.crash.investigation_1_tractor-trailer-van?_s=PM:US
Vehicle Issues Leading to the Cullman Crash?
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. The agency said it is aware of concerns over heavy truck weight rules, safety regulations and state weights standards. It is also looking at why the impact crushed the tractor-trailer cab and rear swivel anti-poaching stops. The safety board may also look at the use of anti-poaching devices. At least one of them was still in place when the wreckage was cleared.
Investigators said the wind-shield glass of the tractor-trailer has a safety feature that is designed to prevent glass from breaking out. But it failed in the Cullman crash. The tractor-trailer also has a system called Impact Bumpers that are designed to reduce injuries and fatalities in crashes, but worked only partially in this case. The safety board will interview AllStar Lube employees and truck drivers. Both are union members. Federal investigators said they want to make sure the employee who removed the stops was following procedures.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Part of the probe will look at the equipment used to plug potholes, said Keith Holloway, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokesman. It’s possible that the equipment left metal debris in the roadbed. “If you’re going to take metal and start hammersing it into a roadbed and then you have a tractor-trailer go over (it), you may have enough metal there that it can possibly damage things,” he said. “That’s part of the investigation.” It’s also possible that debris from the crash was left in the pothole, Holloway said. “It could have been something else that was lost in there,” he said.
Investigators will examine whether the road right-of-way was properly cleared before construction began, Holloway said. That work would have included trimming trees and bundling brush. Funds to pay for tree trimming are provided by private developers as part of a project agreement with the department, he said.