An investigation found that an accident that killed seven people in the Town of Truxton in May was caused by a mechanical failure, possibly a bent component that affected a secondary locking mechanism. Officials are not ticketing either driver or filing any criminal charges.
A tractor trailer whose trailer became disconnected from the cab collided with a minivan that was traveling in the opposite direction on Route 13 around 6:05 p.m. on May 29. Seven of the eight passengers in the van died in the crash, including four children.
The deceased include: 26-year-old Teresa Bush, her two daughters 4-year-old Alexis Bush and 5-year-old Jasmine Bush, 21-year-old Lena Beckwith, who was pregnant, her fianc 24-year-old Carino Vanorden, 7-year-old Alyssa Mead and her brother 4-year-old Tyler Mead. Their father, 31-year-old Shawn Mead was the only survivor. He was treated and released from Upstate University Hospital.
The tractor trailer was operated by 26-year-old Ryan Dorward of Manlius and had one passenger, 44-year-old Duane Newton. Dorward and Newton were not injured in the crash.
Officials say an extensive investigation found that the Holland 5th wheel hitch was responsible for the trailer disconnecting from the tractor trailer. Investigators found that the 5th wheel was connected and tested correctly on the day of the accident. About 13.6 miles into the trip, the JMH flatbed style trailer separated unexpectedly from the 1997 Kenworth tractor trailer and collided with the van.
Investigators say that after inspecting the 5th wheel, they found that when the trailer was initially hooked to the tractor, it would have appeared to have properly locked around the king pin and the release handle would have moved into position and appear to be operating normally.
Further inspection showed the jaws of the 5th wheel closed around and secured the king pin, but when a pull test was conducted, the trailer disconnected.
Investigators say they found a bent component that affected the secondary locking mechanism of the 5th wheel so that it didn??t lock correctly when they inspected the 5th wheel. The cause of the bent component is unknown, but they do not believe it resulted from the accident.
A compliance review was conducted on the carrier by the New York State Department of Transportation and the US Department of Transportation. Investigators say violations were found and cited. Investigators say the administrative violations that were found do not appear to have caused the accident or the resulting fatalities.
The violations from the New York State Code of Rules and Regulations are: failing to implement an alcohol and controlled substance testing program, failing to maintain driver qualification files, failing to maintain inquires into driver??s driving record, failing to require drivers to complete a record of duty status, failing to keep minimum records of inspection and vehicle maintenance, filing to require driver to prepare driver vehicle inspection reports and using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.
The Cortland County Sheriff??s Department and the Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben made the determination not to file criminal charges.
Through out the investigation the Cortland County Sheriff??s Department was assisted by numerous agencies.