In August of this year a trailer that was carrying a nearly 4000 lb brick pizza oven broke loose from the van that was hauling it and crashed into 32-year-old Dwayne Usher’s vehicle, killing him and injuring his girlfriend and two young sons who were in the car with him; such a tragic and preventable death.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is now recommending that the driver of the vehicle towing the oven, 46-year-old Edward Jacobson, be charged with manslaughter without gross negligence for the incident, as this was not just a freak accident but a preventable one caused by Jacobson’s carelessness.
According to investigators Jacobson violated three vehicle codes that contributed to the crash. Jacobson was using a hitch coupler rated for 3500 lbs to haul a trailer that weighed 3950 lbs. Second, investigators found that safety chains that are supposed to connect the trailer and hitch were not used. It appears as though the trailer just bounced right off of the ball…a chain might have kept the trailer from completely detaching from the van. Thirdly, a trailer of that size is required to have an independent braking system which Jacobson’s custom-built trailer did not have. If the trailer did have the brake system it would have engaged in the event of an emergency, possibly preventing the incident. All of these issues are said to be contributing factors to Usher’s death.
The oven was owned by California restaurant, Rosso Pizzeria. Jacobson was an employee of the pizzeria and was returning from a catering event when the incident happened. However, regardless of who owned the pizza oven or even the vehicle towing the oven, the law states that the driver takes full responsibility and it is up to the driver to ensure the vehicle is in safe working condition.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. A Virginia activist who tracks run-away trailers nationally says this sort of thing happens all-too-often and he is working on getting national standards implemented for trailers. Another example of one such tragedy is a recent incident in which a young mother from Georgia was killed when a trailer full of exercise equipment broke free and slammed into her vehicle.
I can only hope folks will keep Mr. Usher and the young Georgia woman in their minds whenever they are hauling anything on trailers. It might seem fine to haul a trailer with a few extra pounds over the limit, or you may not think the chains or the brake system are necessary, but the loss of a human life is profound and not something that anyone should have to go through again, due to complete or partial negligence.