A wreck on I-81 through Frederick County, Virginia (VA), that involved three tractor-trailers and a passenger car left two of the truck drivers dead and a third semi operator with an injured knee. The fatal crash happened near mile marker 319 on the interstate between the communities of Stephenson and Clear Brook.



At around 3:45 pm on September 7, 2017, a northbound truck driver lost control of his big rig when it blew a tire. He sideswiped a Ford Mustang before running across the median and into the path of oncoming traffic. The man in the car was not hurt.

A head-on collision with a second tractor-trailer left both truck drivers dead at the scene and sparked a fire and explosion that made rescue attempts impossible. A third truck driver suffered injuries after being unable to avoid clipping the out-of-control semi, running off the interstate and crashing through a fence into the backyard of a home.

The Winchester Star learned from Virginia State Police that the truck driver who experienced the tire blowout was 67-year-old Alfred Frank Atchison of Nipomo, California (CA). The man behind the wheel of the semi struck head-on was 61-year-old Richard Allen Wagner of Woodstock, VA. My Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our condolences out to the friends and families of both men. We also hope the injured tractor-trailer driver makes a full and rapid recovery.

Crash investigators will most likely — and appropriately — focus on the blown tire. Rules enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the state police require annual inspections of commercial truck tries, rims and axles. Drivers and trucking companies are also expected to conduct regular maintenance, for instance by replacing tires before they exceed their manufacturers’ limits on lifetime miles.

Meeting those legal and professional duties is essential to keeping everyone on Virginia roads and highways safe and alive. During 2015, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 4,978 commercial vehicle crashes, 93 of which could be blamed in part or whole on bad tires. For all truck and bus crashes in the commonwealth that year, 77 occupants of the commercial vehicles involved died and 3,340 occupants suffered injuries.

Defective tires can escape detection by standard inspection techniques. A tire doomed to fail at a critical moment would make the manufacturer negligent and responsible for settling wrongful death claims for both of the truck drivers who lost their lives. On the other hand, if mandated inspections and necessary maintenance went undone, the trucking company and driver for the big rig that ran out of control would have legal responsibilities for paying compensation and damages to the deceased and injured victims.

Sorting through all the evidence and holding the appropriate parties accountable could be difficult regardless of what crash investigators find. Consulting with an experienced and caring Virginia wrongful death attorney will help the families of both the men who died stay up-to-date with developments in the investigation and deal with insurance company representatives.