“Major Equipment Failure” Results in Detached Trailer Crushing Car
This story was updated August 14 @ 5:40 p.m. CST after Transportation Nation Network spoke directly with the Idaho State Police
Coeur d’Alene, ID – Two motorists are in serious condition after police say a “major equipment failure” caused the trailer of a semi-truck to unhitch and crash head-on into a car on Wednesday.
The Idaho State Police (ISP) reported the incident took place about three miles south of Coeur d’Alene in the northbound lanes of US-95 around 8:15 a.m. on August 14.
According to the ISP, a 2014 Peterbilt tractor-trailer driven by Wilbert Kahoonei, 56, of Puyallup, WA, was traveling southbound on US-95.
Kahoonei was negotiating a right-hand curve when trailer became unhitched and traveled into the northbound lane, authorities said.
The tractor-less Wabash trailer then collided head-on with a gray 2015 Nissan Altima near mile marker 426, according to investigators.
The sedan was being driven by 25-year old Nicholas Spooner, with Timothy Spooner, 59, in the passenger seat. Both men are from St. Maries.
Corporal Andy Hodl of the ISP, a responding officer to the scene, spoke with Transportation Nation Network (TNN) after the accident.
Hodl said several motorists who encountered the accident jumped into action immediately to help.
The trailer was resting on top of the sedan and good samaritans “cranked the jacks up” before emergency personnel even arrived, Hodl told TNN.
Once police and firefighters were on-scene, they were able to lift the trailer up more and extricate the men.
Hodl told TNN both men were “unconscious, but breathing” as they were rescued from the crumpled sedan.
The men were transported to a nearby hospital and remain in “very critical” condition.
According to Hodl, Kahoonei had pulled over to the side of the road when he realized the trailer had become detached.
Kahoonei was backing the tractor up when he noticed the accident.
The truck driver, who was understandably in shock, was “definitely cooperative” during the preliminary investigation, Hodl told TNN.
Kahoonei and his passenger in the semi, Darnelle Kahoonei, 51, of Graham, WA, were uninjured.
ISP says the circumstances of the accident are still under investigation, but “it appears to have been caused by a major equipment failure on the part of the semi-truck.”
A spokesperson for ISP, Chris Schenck, said he can’t recall seeing a trailer become unhitched from a semi in his almost-30 years of work.
Hodl echoes Schenck’s statement, saying, “I’ve seen some horrific crashes, but I’ve never seen a trailer come off a semi.”
This is a serious injury crash. The circumstances are still under investigation but it appears to have been caused by a major equipment failure on the part of the semi truck. Emergency crews are still on scene. pic.twitter.com/eJkJF9QD9K
— Idaho State Police (@ispdistrict1) August 14, 2019
The highway was blocked for nearly four hours after the accident.
According to signage on the side of the trailer, the trailer belonged to Mergenthaler Transfer and Storage.
Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows Mergenthaler is headquartered in Helena, MT and has 230 drivers.
Hodl said the trucking company has been “very cooperative” in the investigation thus far.
SAFER Web data shows the carrier has had two accidents involving injury in the past 24 months and no accidents involving fatalities.
The company’s vehicle inspection out of service percentage is in line with the industry average of 20%.
TNN will continue to keep you updated on new developments in this story.
Photo courtesy @wtcampbell / Twitter