DOT blames freak fatal accident on semi truck’s missing locking washer

"This was equipment failure, not a criminal act,” police said.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation says that the death of a college student who was hit by flying truck tires at a rest stop on was probably caused by a missing $3 dollar metal ring.

On March 5, 21 year old Margaret Maurer was killed while she stopped at the eastbound I-10 rest stop in Gautier, Mississippi. Authorities say that a semi truck driving westbound on the interstate lost two tires. The tires crossed over the eastbound lanes of I-10 into the rest stop, where they struck and killed Maurer as she stood in the parking lot. The runaway tires also struck two vehicles at the rest stop.

The truck driver realized that he lost the tires but not that they had hit someone and he turned around to go look for them. He then noticed the emergency vehicles at the rest stop and pulled his truck off at mile marker 68, where he made contact with police.

Following the incident, local police asked the Mississippi Department of Transportation to investigate.

Locking Washer

Willie Huff, director of the office of enforcement of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, told the New Orleans Advocate that a 3-inch locking washer was not present when inspectors opened up the outer hub of the wheel assembly. Huff says that the preliminary investigation indicates the missing locking washer is likely responsible for the lost tires and the fatal accident, through the investigation is ongoing.

Locking Washer

Huff said that the missing locking washer was not something that he would expect to be detected during a roadside inspection or a pre-trip inspection unless the wheel was wobbling.

No charges have been filed against the truck driver or his company at this time. “This was equipment failure, not a criminal act,” said Gaultier Police Captain Casey Baxter.