Police investigating the deadly June 3 crash of a passenger van transporting produce workers say that a tire blowout is likely to blame for the crash, which killed two people and left four others seriously injured.
New Jersey State Police say that a GMC passenger van driven by Romulo de la Cruz, 28, was traveling northbound on highway 55 when the front driver’s side tire blew out around 6 a.m., causing Mr. de la Cruz to lose control of the vehicle. The van left swerved off the highway and struck a tree, creating an impact that was “so severe the font hood was concaved into a ‘V’ and the steering wheel pushed into the rear door jam,” Philadelphia’s NBC10 reported.
Although he was wearing a seat belt, Mr. de la Cruz died at the scene from his crash injuries. The impact also killed 47-year-old Norma Santiago.
Three men and one woman also riding in the van were flown by helicopter to Cooper University’s Trauma Center in Camden, N.J., in critical condition.
The driver and the five passengers were all employees of Ambrogi Foods, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler and distributor based in Thorofare, N.J.
Investigators haven’t said whether the tire that blew out was defective, but tires that are flawed in their design or manufacture remain one of the most common, and deadliest, of automotive defects that threaten motorists every day.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11,000 tire-related crashes occur every year, killing about 200 people and injuring several others. Databases tracking crash data make it impossible to tell how many of these crashes are the result of improperly maintained or old tires and how many are caused by manufacturer defects.
Tire defects are also notoriously difficult to find, and when they are found, the defective tires can be even more difficult to recall, compounding the danger for motorists. Unfortunately, drivers often learn of defective tires only after experiencing a blowout, if they are fortunate enough to survive.
N.J. authorities continue to investigate the crash that killed the Ambrogi workers.