A woman and her unborn son tragically died when a semitrailer wheel separated from the trailer and rolled through the windshield of the woman’s SUV, according to the Illinois State Police (ISP). The trailer wheel hit the woman, Melinda Cullen of Coal City, Illinois. She left behind a husband and three children. Our thoughts are with the family.

The driver of the semitrailer was charged with driving with unsafe equipment. Under federal law, the driver of a commercial truck is responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle, which includes making sure the wheels are securely in place before hitting the road.

The accident happened at about 2:20 p.m. on March 7, 2018. The semitrailer was traveling east on I-80 near Joliet, Illinois, when the wheel came off of the trailer’s rear axle, according to ISP. Ms. Cullen was driving her SUV west on I-80 when the trailer wheel rolled down a ditch, up onto westbound I-80, and into her windshield, killing her and her unborn baby.

In most cases like this, there is a GoFundMe page set up for the family. We did not find one.

Causes of Wheel Separation on 18-Wheelers

When a wheel is separated from the trailer of a heavy truck, it can bounce away at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.  The speed of the wheel and oncoming vehicle combined with the weight of the wheel, which can be close to 100 pounds, can result in severe injuries or death, as was the case here.

Wheel hub separation can be caused by the following:

  • failure of the bearing, which can lead to destruction of the hub, allowing the hub to then come off the axle;
  • failure of the axle spindle nut;
  • loosening of nuts due to improper fastening;
  • missing nuts;
  • axle failure, where part of the axle breaks off, taking a tire and attached wheel hub with it.

Truck Wheel Separation Accident

In these cases, every part of the hub and axle assembly, including every nut, needs to be closely examined by a truck accident lawyer and a forensic engineer hired by that lawyer. Every mark on every part tells a story.

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