A side underride crash involving a tractor-trailer and a van full of children left a 3-year-old girl dead and three others injured in Nevada Saturday, Nov. 18.
The driver of the tractor-trailer is facing criminal charges after making an illegal turn on I-15 in the Moapa Indian Reservation north of Las Vegas.
According to the St. George News, the Nevada State Police said that both the tractor-trailer and a Kia van were traveling northbound. The tractor-trailer was driving in the right lane and the van was traveling in the left lane, behind the truck.
The driver of the tractor-trailer then braked and made an illegal left turn onto a dirt median with signs posted saying “No U-Turn” and “Authorized Vehicles Only.” The improper turn put the semi-tractor’s trailer in the path of the van, which was carrying an adult female driver and four children.
The van collided with the side of the tractor-trailer. Pictures of the underride crash show the van lodged into the side of the trailer, with the right side of the van bearing the brunt of the collision.
According to a GoFundMe fundraiser set up to help the family, emergency workers performed CPR on the girl several times before airlifting her by helicopter to Sunrise Pediatrics in Las Vegas where she died a few hours later. According to the GoFundMe page, the girl suffered a severe head injury that “was nearly impossible for her to recover from …”
The driver of the van, reportedly the girl’s mother, and two other children were injured. The girl’s 11-year-old brother was seriously injured but is expected to survive.
The crash occurred at a time when families of underride crash victims and safety advocates are pushing for laws that would require guards on the sides of tractor-trailers and other large trucks. The guards, called “Angel Wings,” prevent smaller vehicles from going under the truck.
Because of the height variance between trailers and passenger vehicles, side underride crashes often result in fatal crushing injuries and/or decapitation.
It’s difficult to calculate how many underride crashes occur each year because there is no standard reporting system for such crashes. However, an investigative report by Washington DC’s WUSA9 identified at least 23 underride crashes in 18 states between Sept. 7 and Nov. 18 – little more than nine weeks’ time.
Those 23 crashes killed 21 people, including the 3-year-old girl in Nevada, and seriously injured seven, WUSA 9 reported.
While rear underride guards are mandatory for large trucks, side guards are not. Those opposed to a side guard requirement say the weight of the guards will require tractor-trailers to carry lighter loads, resulting in more truck traffic on the roads and more crashes thereby defeating any benefits.
According to WUSA9, “Backers of the new underride legislation are waiting for it to be introduced on Capitol Hill, and hope that it will happen by the end of the year. The bill already has Democrats willing to sponsor it but people supporting it also would like Republicans on board before introducing it, so it has bipartisan support.”