If you drive a little more than an hour and a half northwest of New York City, you will come to the modestly sized town of Wawayanda, New York. The quiet of the bucolic setting was shattered recently when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of a passenger car stalled on the interstate highway.
Inside the Volkswagen Passat were a 29-year-old mother, her 9-year-old daughter, and the woman's 14-year-old niece. The car had run out of gas and was stopped with its emergency flashers on in the right lane of Interstate 84 early Wednesday morning.
The woman was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher when the 18-wheeler approached around 3:40 a.m. Three minutes into the call for help, the dispatcher heard the terrible sound of the big rig crashing into the car. After a few moments, the phone went silent.
The truck driver, 52 years old, was hauling merchandise for an auto parts retail chain. He later told police later that he saw the car's flashers, but for some reason thought the vehicle was still in motion.
Details from news reports were scant, so it is impossible to draw definitive conclusions about the fatal crash. But in similar situations, the families of the victims will want to know if the trucker's error was due to any of several factors, including fatigue, inexperience, or distraction.
Accident reconstruction experts, witnesses, and police reports can all be used to gain an understanding of what went wrong and why. In the case of driver negligence, a victim's family can pursue compensation.