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Hitch failure said to be cause...

Hitch failure said to be cause of deadly Truxton truck accident

  • June 7, 2013

On May 29, we all mourned as we learned that seven people, including four children, had been killed when the trailer of a semi truck carrying crushed cars became unattached from the rig, veered across Route 13 south of Syracuse, and struck a minivan carrying two area families. Eight people were in the van: a man and his 26-year-old wife, their two children aged 4 and 5, two other young adults, and two more children aged 4 and 7. One, the father, survived.

The fatal tractor-trailer accident took place around 6 p.m. near Truxton. The truck, a 1997 Kenworth rig, was operated by a Georgetown-based auto salvage business called Newton Salvage Co., and the driver and his passenger were not injured.

It is not yet known whether negligence on the part of the driver or trucking company played any role in the tragedy, but accident investigators with the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department has determined that the hitch connecting the trailer and the rig failed. Specifically, the problem was with the fifth wheel locking mechanism. The brakes deployed but failed to stop the swerving trailer.

New York law requires commercial trucks to be professionally inspected at least once a year, and tractor trailers are also subject to random inspections by state troopers and the New York State Department of Transportation. Additionally, commercial drivers are required to perform a full visual inspection of the condition of the truck before getting behind the wheel. The trailer hitch is one of the items drivers are required to inspect.

According to the owner of the Oswego-based scrap company that leased the truck to Newton Salvage, the tractor trailer was new and had been freshly inspected. Additionally, the truck received a random NYSDOT inspection in March, which found three minor violations, none of which are likely to have caused the accident. Newton Salvage was cited for lacking exterior reflective tape, having no fire extinguisher on board, and being 4 percent overweight.

The deadly tractor trailer accident was a major tragedy for Truxton, a small town where everyone knows their neighbors. In interviews after the wreck, first responders described their shock and an eerie sense of disbelief.

“What did we just see? Did that just really happen?” said one firefighter who responded to the crash. “You get all that training and you’re not ready for it,” he added. “You can’t be if you’re human.”


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