Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sad, Sad News From IA: Details of fatal crash known; 'why' isn't | The Des Moines Register |

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of Jesse J. Inman, 29, and Daniel Walsh, 60, both with Hanifen Towing, who died on Sept. 13 after a semi crashed into the vehicle they were attempting to tow from the side of the road. The semi's driver and the driver of the disabled vehicle also died. Here's the story:

Details of fatal crash known; 'why' isn't | The Des Moines Register |

Officials said they know how the accident happened that left four men dead last week near Grinnell.

But it is still a mystery why the semitrailer truck that caused the accident ran off Interstate Highway 80 at around 7 p.m. Sept. 13.

Authorities have checked out several factors.

Other truck drivers in the area at the same time said they weren’t having major issues with glare from the setting sun.

The last text message or phone call on the phone of Herbert Arthur Terrell, 54, the driver of the semi-truck that caused the wreck, was at noon that day — seven hours before the crash.

And Terrell was within his maximum allowed number of driving hours, authorities said.

Hiner trucking uses electronic records, said Iowa State Patrol Trooper Chris Starrett, which means time cards can’t be altered to misrepresent the number of hours a person drove.

Toxicology reports won’t be available for several weeks, Starrett said.

Whatever the reason, the semi driven by Terrell left the roadway.

A flatbed trailer driven by James F. Langolf, 50, had broken down and pulled onto the shoulder. Jesse J. Inman, 29, and Daniel Walsh, 60, both with Hanifen Towing, arrived to assist the truck.

They parked one vehicle in front of the flatbed to hook onto it. Another parked 50 to 100 feet behind the scene with its lights flashing to warn oncoming motorists. That vehicle was eventually to tow away the trailer portion of the broken-down truck.

The truck driver and one of the tow truck operators were standing behind the truck. The other tow truck driver was between the truck and the tow vehicle.

The semi driven by Terrell struck the vehicle parked behind the other two. That caused the truck to jack-knife and strike the broken-down truck, pushing it into the fourth vehicle.

All four men died at the scene.

It’s unclear how fast the semi was going at the time; authorities said they didn’t find mechanical problems with the vehicle.

Investigators found marks at the scene associated with tires skidding sideways during the initial impact, but none indicating attempts to brake afterward. They don’t know if that’s because Terrell simply didn’t have time to take evasive action or if he was incapacitated in any way.

Still, Starrett is hoping he can eventually figure out what caused the collision.

“I would hope that we would figure it out. Four people are dead,” he said. “But circumstances like this, sometimes we get lucky and do find a reason. Sometimes we don’t.”

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