A concrete mixer overturned onto a minivan and sent all four people in the smaller vehicle to hospitals with injuries ranging from serious to life-threatening. The wreck happened in Concord, North Carolina (NC), at around 8:30 am on September 20, 2017.
State Highway Patrol troopers responded to the scene in Cabarrus County and found the truck lying completely on top of the minivan. Investigators told reporters that the driver of the truck had been trying to turn right from NC 49 onto Zion Church Road when his load of 40,000 pounds of liquid concrete shifted. The minivan was waiting at a red light in the left-hand turn lane of Zion Church Road.
Two 13-year-old passengers in the smaller vehicle were quickly pulled from wreckage and treated for their injuries at a nearby hospital. Freeing the van’s driver and another 13-year-old girl seated behind her required more than an hour and the use of a construction crane. The critically injured woman and young passenger were then airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
Troopers cited the cement mixer driver for exceeding a safe speed. The man does not appear to have been going faster than the posted speed limit of 55 mph on NC 49, but he did go too fast into the turn to maintain control. The speeding statute in North Carolina, section 20-141 of the General Statutes, contains these provisions that cover situations like this one in Concord:
(a) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway or in a public vehicular area at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing.
(m) The fact that the speed of a vehicle is lower than the foregoing limits shall not relieve the operator of a vehicle from the duty to decrease speed as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway, and to avoid injury to any person or property.
The phenomenon that the Commercial Driver License Manual published by the North Carolina Department of Transportation calls “surge” appears to have played a role in causing this rollover wreck on Zion Church Road. According to the manual, “Liquid surge results from movement of the liquid in partially filled tanks. This movement can have bad effects on handling. For example, when coming to a stop, the liquid will surge back and forth. When the wave hits the end of the tank, it tends to push the truck in the direction the wave is moving.”
To prevent and control front-to-back and side-to-side surge, the manual advises, “Slow down before curves, then accelerate slightly through the curve. The posted speed for a curve may be too fast for a tank vehicle.”
Failing to slow down sufficiently before starting to turn right represents negligence on the part of the cement mixer driver. Since that error caused the truck to overturn and land on the minivan, he is now responsible for settling personal injury claims filed by the parents of the three injured girls and by the woman behind the wheel of the van. The company that employed the cement mixer driver may also have legal liability for faulty equipment or inadequate training and driver screening.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I hope all the victims of this wreck in Concord recover quickly and completely.