LIBERTY, Texas – A tire blowout is to blame for a truck driver losing control of his 18-wheeler and crashing early Tuesday morning on Interstate 45 in Huntsville, Texas.
Driver Michael Bird, 56, was traveling in the right northbound lane on I-45 near exit 113 when the blowout on the right front tire occurred. Mr. Bird’s truck veered off the highway, colliding with a guardrail and hitting a concrete bridge support column head-on. The impact caused the truck to burst into flames with Mr. Bird still inside. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash also caused severe structural damage to the Goree overpass. Texas Department of Transportation officials inspecting the bridge found that the concrete column Mr. Bird’s 2001 Freightliner box truck crashed into was crushed and nearly separated from the upper bridge structure.
Authorities shut down the northbound lanes of I-45 starting at exit 113 for nearly 11 hours, causing a traffic jam that stretched for 10 miles. Motorists were detoured to a frontage road around the crash site. The Goree overpass was also closed immediately and is not expected to reopen until the bridge undergoes the needed repairs.
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.