Major Cause Of Double-Fatality Crash Was OHP Trooper's Improper U-Turn
Thursday, November 16th 2006, 3:38 pm
News On 6
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A truck driver was speeding in a construction zone before his rig hit the cruiser of a state trooper attempting to make a U-turn, according to a report on the double-fatality collision released Thursday.
But even though the truck driven by 25-year-old Hussein Haji-ege Osman was traveling 72 mph in a 55 mph zone, an improper turn across Interstate 44 by Trooper William McClendon "contributed most to the collision," said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Chris West.
"The burden still rests upon our trooper," West said.
The report also indicates that McClendon's emergency lights were activated that Osman failed to yield to an emergency vehicle and was operating a vehicle with unsafe brakes. Both men were killed.
McClendon, 37, was trying to do the U-turn on I-44 on Oct. 1 by cutting through a gap in the concrete median. Before McClendon's Dodge Charger could make it through the barrier, it was crushed by Osman's tractor-trailer.
"He loved his job, he loved doing it for other people," said William McClendon's brother, Richard. "He's just a good person, you know?"
McClendon attempted the turnaround near Claremore on the Will Rogers Turnpike, a part of I-44 connecting Tulsa with southwestern Missouri.
The Highway Patrol said it is still unclear why McClendon made the turn, but that it was possible he saw something on the other side of the road that caused him to turn around, such as a speeding car.
The next exit was at Adair, nine miles away.
"One thing we're not going to know is why McClendon did the turnabout," West said.
Early news of the report's release was welcomed Wednesday by officials at Arsh Transport, the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company that owned Osman's truck.
"It was a relief," said Mary Pinelo, the company's office manager. "We don't have to feel like it was our fault."
Dan Case, executive director of the Oklahoma Trucking Association, called the turnarounds on that turnpike "terrible" and said more should be done to alert motorists how dangerous they can be.
"Put something on those turnarounds like a flashing light," Case said.
But West defended the safety of the roadway system, saying that Oklahoma's turnpikes are among the safest in the country.
Last year, three people were killed in two accidents on the Turner Turnpike in eastern Oklahoma County after attempting similar U-turns.
Since 2004, there have been at least 10 fatalities on Oklahoma's roads near turnabouts, according to the highway patrol.