Runaway truck fatality brings ramp safety into question

An unidentified truck driver was killed when his truck entered a runaway truck ramp near Incline Village in Lake Tahoe and the load of wood and other items he was hauling crushed through into the cab as the truck came to a halt suddenly on the ramp, according to a report by the Sierra Sun.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen said the ramp was effective in stopping the truck and its trailer. “However, the load did not stop, and it continued through the cab, killing the driver, essentially crushing the driver,” Allen said.

This is the second truck driver fatality at the ramp in two years, causing state officials to question the safety and construction of the ramp.

The most recent incident occurred at about 2:50 p.m. Monday near the intersection of highways 431 and 28 on Lake Tahoe's North Shore.

The trucker’s name has not yet been released.

The runaway ramp was also the scene of a fatal accident on June 18, 2010, when Frederick Matthews’ out-of-control semi hit the ramp and vaulted off it, striking a tree and crashing into a private home, according to the Sun report. The truck overturned and caught fire, setting the house ablaze and killing Matthews, who was trapped inside the cab.

According to an NHP investigation, a brake malfunction on the semi was the largest contributing factor to the incident, however that incident and three previous major accidents at the site brought into question the safety of the ramp and the state DOT began looking into the possibly of widening the ramp or adding additional speed-slowing barriers

In an interview Monday afternoon, Nevada Dept. of Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder told the Sun a statewide runaway truck ramp study is underway but a timetable for its completion is not known.

“We’re looking at everything — safety, functionality — on all state truck ramps,” Magruder said.

The Lake Tahoe ramp is among three in the state of Nevada; the other two are on U.S. Highway 50 between Carson City and Spooner Summit.

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