Although the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not yet determined a probable cause for a 2017 traffic accident in New Mexico that ultimately killed 8 people, a preliminary report on the incident indicates a tire problem with the truck that was involved.

How it happened

The truck-tractor in combination with a refrigerated semitrailer was traveling east on I-40 in McKinley County when the driver lost control of the vehicle, entered the 33-foot-wide depressed earthen median, jackknifed, and continued into the westbound lanes—striking a motorcoach.

The semitrailer separated from the truck-tractor and came to rest in the westbound lane and center median on its right side, spilling its load of produce onto the roadway. After rolling onto its roof, the truck-tractor came to rest in the median just off the westbound lanes of I40. The motorcoach ended up on the right edge of the roadway, westbound.

Premature labor

Seven people in the motorcoach, including the driver, died. Following the crash, one motorcoach passenger prematurely went into labor and delivered twins. One of the twins died eight days later.

Thirty-nine motorcoach passengers were injured, as was the driver of the truck.

The NTSB report notes that just prior to the collision, the left front tire of the combination vehicle “experienced a sudden air loss.”

Postcrash drug and alcohol tests were negative for both drivers.

Were seat belts being used?

No mechanical defects have been found in either vehicle, although the tire carcass from the left steer axle of the truck-tractor has been shipped to the NTSB materials laboratory for additional examination. Investigators are also evaluating maintenance records for the combination vehicle. The motorcoach was equipped with lap/shoulder belts for all seating positions, and the extent of passenger belt use is being examined.

The NTSB is evaluating motor carrier operations and driver performance as related to the crash. For both drivers, records will be examined for driver qualifications, medical qualifications, training, and experience. Electronic driver logs and automatic onboard recorder devices are also being reviewed. All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB focuses on determining the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes. The agency is working in conjunction with the New Mexico State Police, the New Mexico Department of Transportation, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to compile a complete and accurate account of the crash.