CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Semi-truck in 33 car crash in Tooele shouldn’t have even been on the road

Jan 11, 2024, 2:30 PM

A 30-plus car crash in Tooele in November was because of faulty brakes on a semi-truck....

A newly released final report on the semi-truck that crashed into 33 vehicles and a car dealership in Tooele in November determined the vehicle should not have been on the road because of faulty brakes. (Jeremy Hill)

(Jeremy Hill)

TOOELE — A semi-truck that was hauling two trailers full of gravel when it hit more than two dozen vehicles and came to a stop only after a fiery car crash into the Tooele Motor Company building in November did not have operating brakes.

That’s according to police who, after more than two months of investigation, have completed their final report on the Nov. 3 crash. The report, conducted by Tooele police and the Utah Highway Patrol, was released to KSL.com on Thursday through a public records request.

According to an inspection of the two trailers conducted after the crash, “The initial inspection … (found) approximately 80% of the trailer braking system was not functioning correctly” and “many of the brake systems were likely in a deteriorated state before the accident.”

Police have now sent their report to Tooele prosecutors to screen for potential charges against the driver of the semi-truck and the truck company’s owner, who is related to the driver, according to police. As of Thursday, no charges had been filed. KSL.com is not naming the men at this time.

On Nov. 3, at about 1:40 p.m., a large semi-truck from CL Ranch Transport, based in Grantsville, was hauling two trailers full of gravel when it hit multiple vehicles at 1000 North and Main Street, and at 400 North, before crashing into the dealership at 1141 N. Main Street, exploding and causing a fire. A total of 33 cars were damaged and 11 people injured.

When police found the semi-truck driver at the dealership, he was “crying periodically” but was not injured.

“I’m not gonna lie, these brakes have been working fine all day and … I was coming down … and they went right to the floor and there was no air leaks or anything,” he uttered. “I’m so sorry, I was on the horn and trying to get it to stop.”

The report describes the driver as being “very distraught,” but other information that possibly describes the driver’s mental state was redacted. Both the driver and the truck company’s owner told police that the driver does not drink or do drugs.

“I’m not gonna lie, these brakes have been working fine all day and … I was coming down … and they went right to the floor and there was no air leaks or anything. I’m so sorry, I was on the horn and trying to get it to stop.” – A statement from the semitruck driver, according to police

The driver was taken to the Tooele Police Department for further questioning. He explained how he had been picking up and delivering loads of rock to Geneva that day, and that he had made approximately five successful runs prior to the crash, the report states. The driver told police that “one thing he didn’t like about this job was they didn’t have a scale” and that when his truck is loaded with rocks, “he doesn’t know how much weight he is driving with.”

The driver also claimed he did all his usual pre-trip inspections on the semi, including checking the brakes, before driving.

“(He stated) he started going down the hill into Tooele and started gearing down and realized he had no trailer brakes,” the report states. “He believed he lost brakes and couldn’t get the truck to stop. (He) stated he believed the truck was too heavy and there was a malfunction in the trailer.”

When asked what he did at that point, the driver told investigators “he did everything, stating he pulled all the emergency buttons.”

According to troopers who inspected the remains of the semi, it used an air brake system and each wheel had its own brake drums and set of pads.

“The truck itself was completely destroyed. Nothing was deemed able to be inspected as far as determining the cause of the crash,” the report states, noting that all that was left to inspect were the two trailers.

When the trucking company owner was questioned, he said he wasn’t sure how the brakes would have failed, according to the report. He said maintenance work had been done on the trailer that past weekend, but the work was done at his house by his kids so there is no official documentation, the report states. He also claimed that he looked at the brakes himself two weeks prior to the crash and did not see any problems. But when shown pictures by investigators of what they found, the owner “did agree that if those conditions had been seen in a pre-trip inspection, the trailer should not have been taken or used.”

The owner also “did attribute inexperience on the driver’s part to the accident,” the report states.

Investigators assigned to crash reconstruction determined the semi-truck was going about 30 mph when it passed the Tooele Public Works building, and that based on the weight of the load it was hauling, it should have been able to stop within 106 feet if all the brakes were working.

“However, not only could the Kenworth not stop within the maximum allowable stopping distance, but could not stop at all and was increasing speed,” according to the report.

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Semi-truck in 33 car crash in Tooele shouldn’t have even been on the road