Tahoe trucking tragedy: Company says killed driver had clean record, vehicle recently inspected | SierraSun.com

Tahoe trucking tragedy: Company says killed driver had clean record, vehicle recently inspected

Jason Shueh and Kevin MacMillan
Sierra Sun
Jason Shueh/Sierra SunA slurry of fire-suppressing foam covers the remains of the big rig that flew off the runaway ramp on Friday morning near the intersection of state routes 431 and 28 in Incline Village and crashed into a two-story house on Second Creek Drive.

Reporter Jason Shueh was at the scene Friday morning, from about 8:30 to 10 a.m., and he captured a number of compelling images from the incident, which show the destroyed truck, large flames swallowing the house, the proximity of the fire to other wood-based homes and the surrounding woods, and more.

To view the 144-image online photo gallery, visit http://www.sierrasun.com/runawaytruckfire.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; As word spreads of the tragic big-rig truck crash last Friday that killed a San Diego man and destroyed a two-story home near the Mt. Rose Highway runaway truck ramps, regional truckers are paying their respects.

All this week, as truckers are making the drive from Tahoe to Reno, they’ve been blaring their horns as they pass the runaway ramp at the intersection near state routes 431 and 28, undoubtedly as a tribute to fallen colleague Frederick Matthews, 41, of San Diego.

and#8220;We live quite a ways up from where the tragic truck accident happened,and#8221; said Incline resident Kristen Ferrall. and#8220;I have been hearing truck after truck after truck honk their horns off in that direction since the accident … I’m not sure if it’s a thing drivers are supposed to do when they pass the scene of such a terrible accident … or if there is an unwritten way of showing their sentiment and sense that this industry is very family oriented and there is a great sense of respect and acknowledgment of what happened here.and#8221;

That same family sentiment was shared in a Wednesday interview with Wilma Knowles, co-owner of Kennie Knowles Trucking Co., out of Redding, Calif., where Matthews worked.

and#8220;The main question is how did the accident happen,and#8221; Knowles said. and#8220;Its been hard on all the guys here because my guys are very close and many of my guys have been working here for seven or more years.and#8221;

Initial reports from Friday’s incident concluded that Matthews lost control of his lumber-hauling truck, and he catapulted off the runaway truck ramp, flying through the air and landing on the home at 645 Woodridge Circle. Incline resident Gwen Ewasko, 19, was the lone person inside the home, and she escaped without injury. Her four pet cats died in the subsequent vehicle and structure fire.

Knowles said Matthews had no previous crashes or accidents on his driving record. The truck he was driving had been given consistent maintenance starting in December 2009 and was serviced and inspected as early as June 1, Knowles said, and its trailer carrying the lumber was inspected on June 7.

Knowles said the situation may have been more complex than a simple failure of machinery.

She explained brakes on a big-rig truck sometimes overheat, causing them to lose traction when clamping down on the rotors. The brake loss forces the driver to use lower gearing to slow his or her vehicle, something Knowles said must happen in a split second after taking the truck out of gear.

and#8220;With a big rig truck once you get it out of gear you would have to downshift two or three gears to slow it down enough which sometimes isn’t even possible depending on your speed,and#8221; she said.

On Monday, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder said officials will evaluate the ramp to determine if it needs safety improvements; he said the department is waiting for a complete incident report before making any decisions because it should describe the weight and load of the vehicle, as well as what angle it hit the ramp.

Magruder estimates the incident report could be completed in about a week. The Nevada Highway Patrol is conducting the investigation.

According to the Washoe County Assessor’s office, the 645 Woodridge Circle home was built in 1991, and bought by Ewasko family in August of 2004.

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