Authorities in South Florida say a tire blowout appears to have caused a Ford Expedition SUV to crash Sunday afternoon in Alligator Alley, killing a Tampa couple and their dogs.
The Florida Highway Patrol reported that the treads on the left rear tire of the Ford SUV separated, causing Kevin Livingston, 42, to lose control of the vehicle. The Ford veered off Interstate 75 near Mile Marker 32 and plummeted into a canal on the right side of the highway.
I-75 runs through the Everglades, connecting Fort Lauderdale with Florida’s southwestern Gulf Coast.
Mr. Livingston and his wife Michele Makiyama Livingston, 35, died at the scene with their two Yorkies.
According to WFTS Tampa Bay, the couple were returning home to Tampa after Thanksgiving when the tire blowout occurred.
Witnesses stopped to try to help the couple, but the water at the site of the crash is about 40 feet deep, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky told WFTS.
Kevin’s father told WFTS that his son was a veteran who survived two helicopter crashes. He met Michele in Japan and the two were planning to start a family.
The Livingstons lived in South Florida, including in Fort Lauderdale, when he was assigned to the U.S. Southern Command, Mr. Livingston’s brother told the Sun-Sentinel. Mr. Livingston worked for a company that supplies commercial equipment to restaurants and Mrs. Livingston worked for a company that sells replacement parts for aircraft, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
What happened to the Livingstons is a deadly threat to everyone on the road. Tire professionals in the business of replacing tires often express concern, frustration and amazement at the condition of tires they remove from vehicles.
Al Brietenstine, who manages a Goodyear shop in Odessa, north of Tampa, told WFTS people often don’t know the dangerous shape their tires are in. Like one tire where bad alignment destroyed the inside.
“It’s hard to believe that someone came in driving on this,” Mr. Brietenstine told WFTS, showing a balding tire. “That’s a tire that could blow out at any minute going down the road.”
Tires can become compromised if a vehicle is out of alignment or they are underinflated. Other factors can contribute to an unexpected tire blowout, including manufacturing defects and damage. Tires are equipped with wear bars that help motorists gauge the wear and overall condition of the tire.
However, it is important to know that tires also are susceptible to breaking down due to age, even if the tire looks new or was never or seldom used, like a spare tire. All drivers should become familiar with the telltale signs of damaged and defective tires and keep an eye on them, looking for signs that something may be wrong.
Still, if you experience a tire blowout, “you are more likely to stay on the road by always having both hands on the steering wheel,” WFTS reports. “Also don’t jam on the brakes, but instead coast to a stop.”